Reflecting on Juneteenth

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on June 18, 2020

Juneteenth Freedom Day language with red, green, and black color blocksDescribed as a second independence day, June 19th or Juneteenth marks the day that emancipation reached slaves in the furthest reaches of the South. While the Emancipation Proclamation proclaimed that all slaves held within the rebellious states were freed, plantation life continued as though no change had occurred in many parts of the slaveholding South until this day. Juneteenth is a time to reflect upon this history, including the steps toward freedom that have been achieved and the forces that continue to undermine the freedom of African Americans. Juneteenth entered public consciousness recently when it was announced that the Trump campaign would hold a rally on that date in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of what is considered the worst race massacre in American history—one in which white mobs murdered over 300 African Americans. These plans were amended after provoking a wave of criticism about the insensitivity and even threat contained in such a decision in these times of ongoing unrest. These events provoke a number of questions but one thing is certain: finding the gumption to face our history, connect it to current events, and take action is perhaps more crucial now than ever before.

Facing History invites you to learn more about the continuing significance of Juneteenth and the legacies of slavery in contemporary society with the following resources:

On Juneteenth


On the Impact of Slavery and its Contemporary Legacies

The 1619 Project (special issue) by The New York Times Magazine
The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” —The New York Times Magazine

The Fire Next Time (book) by James Baldwin
“An intensely personal and provocative document from the iconic author of If Beale Street Could Talk and Go Tell It on the Mountain. It consists of two ‘letters’ written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism. Described by The New York Times Book Review as ‘sermon, ultimatum, confession, deposition, testament, and chronicle...all presented in searing, brilliant prose,’ The Fire Next Time stands as a classic of literature.” ⁠—Vintage

13TH (documentary) by Ava DuVernay
“In this thought-provoking documentary, scholars, activists and politicians analyze the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom.” ⁠—Netflix

When They See Us (TV show) by Ava DuVernay
“Five teens from Harlem become trapped in a nightmare when they're falsely accused of a brutal attack in Central Park. Based on the true story.” ⁠—Netflix

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (book) by Bryan Stevenson
“Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system... Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.” ⁠—One World

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Facing History invites educators to use our resource collection The Reconstruction Era and the Fragility of Democracy to explore the immediate aftermath of antebellum slavery and its continuing impact on contemporary life in the United States.

Access Tools for Educators

Topics: Reconstruction, American History, black history

At Facing History and Ourselves, we value conversation—in classrooms, in our professional development for educators, and online. When you comment on Facing Today, you're engaging with our worldwide community of learners, so please take care that your contributions are constructive, civil, and advance the conversation.

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Welcome to Facing Today, a Facing History blog. Facing History and Ourselves combats racism and antisemitism by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

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