I’d like to share why it’s vitally important to honor our ancestral fight for Black freedom.
In your grade school classes, you were likely taught that enslaved Black people were granted freedom when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.
Unfortunately, we were spoon-fed an oversimplified revisionist history.
The truth is, President Lincoln intended to preserve the Union rather than abolish slavery in its entirety.
The Emancipation Proclamation states "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."
What this truly means is that slavery was fully intact among southern states and the promise of slavery abolition was dependent on a Civil War victory, which occurred in April 1865.
Time and time again, the promise of our ancestors’ freedom has been delayed, contingent, and deprioritized. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865, when 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas that emancipation became a truer reality. There, the army announced that over 250,000 Black enslaved people were granted freedom via executive decree.
Juneteenth commemorates the day when the last enslaved Black people in Texas were finally granted freedom according to law. Although slavery legally ended, uninhibited freedom still has not become a reality for all Black people in the United States. Our ancestors were taunted and lynched profusely by white supremacist individuals and organizations like the KKK during the Reconstruction era. Then Jim Crow laws turned Black people into second-class citizens through enforced racial segregation until 1965 with the passing of the Voting Rights Act. And today, we are experiencing police brutality, redlining, voter suppression, and mass incarceration simultaneously.
I cannot promise that voting will immediately solve inequities Black people experience every day in this country. But it is one of the best ways we can use our voices to elect leaders that are accountable to Black communities and understand that we need change now.
We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams. Let’s take that dream even further and envision a world where all Black lives not only matter, but are cherished and protected equally.
Until justice is real,
Jenni, Drew, Charles, Cristel, Tammi, Alex, Scotty, Daniel and the Color Of Change PAC team