They’re lucky black people are looking for equality and not revenge.” Kimberly Jones made this statement following the killing of George Floyd. Lebron James echoed her sentiments stating, “Kimberly I’m here for you!!!! And more importantly I hear you and will make change for US!! I will not stop until I see it.” Jones’ words seem like the type of statement a newly liberated Black person would have made on one of those Juneteenth days in Texas. On June 19, 1865, Black people in Galveston learned of their freedom. This occurred nearly two years after the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln that freed enslaved Blacks in the Confederate States of America and six months before the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified to officially end slavery in the United States.
Celebrated as a Freedom, Liberation, and Emancipation Day among descendants of enslaved Black Americans, the holiday became known as Juneteenth. Juneteenth is a holiday that all Americans should truly celebrate: an end to the most horrific racist chapter on the planet—the brutal and deadly enslavement of Black people in the United States. Corporations and universities from Twitter to University of Maryland are finally commemorating the holiday are giving employees the day off for a day of reflection, education, and healing. Similar to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s holiday, a day on might be appropriate for people to continue to embark on this next chapter of America’s racial awakening.
Americans have a long way to go to truly become what I call “racial equity learners.” For many Black Americans, bondage did not end with Juneteenth. Rather, shackles and whips were exchanged for handcuffs and batons. Picking cotton was exchanged for the railroad chain gang during convict leasing. Subpar education and housing continued and continues. De facto redlining commemorates a systemic form of racial segregation that manifests in Blacks over exposure to COVID-19.
For many, Black bondage has been continuously repacked with a different wrapper like a company that has scandals and changes its name. Convict leasing and lynching replaced slavery throughout much of the south, and even spread to the west and east coasts. In fact, about 75% of Alabama’s state revenue came from convict leasing. The legacy of convict leasing lives on today as incarcerated people make products for companies, including some universities. In college, your baby could be sleeping in a bed made by a prisoner for a company that is shopped and traded on the New York Stock Exchange.