Keonte R. Turner: The Meaning of Juneteenth

The year is 1865…

Liberation for an enslaved people had finally reached Galveston, Texas. This day in our history confirmed the freedom of the last remaining slaves in the deepest and most wretched parts of the South. 

It had been two years since President Abraham Lincoln signed an executive order declaring that “all persons held as slaves” would be free. We know this order as the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.

The news spread slowly and often met resistance from plantation owners. Some blatantly refused to follow the orders of President Lincoln.

You see…plantation owners feared retaliation for the years of bondage, the selling off of families and the murder that they had  inflicted upon African Americans for hundreds of years .They feared a rebellion. Names like Gabriel Prosser, Denmark Vesey, and Nat Turner kept them up at night. 

Black communities across this country are up at night. Still.

Today we do not celebrate Juneteenth without undergoing the retraumatization of our ancestors, of our history here in America, as well as the current conditions for black people in this country. Especially here in Wisconsin.

Countries all over the globe celebrate June 19th as a day to recognize the end of slavery and to celebrate the culture and achievements of African Americans.

So I ask you to celebrate with us, just as we celebrate with you on the fourth of July. I want you to reflect and educate yourselves on the very pivotal and essential role African Americans had in building the very nation you love. 

Happy Juneteenth, La Crosse.

Keonte R. Turner is the founder of the youth group RISE, a member of B.L.A.C.K., and a member of the School District of La Crosse Board of Education.

Questions? Email Top picture credit: An emancipation print from 1863 depicting a series of scenes contrasting African American life before and after slavery. Library of Philadelphia.

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