Dean Solomon: Juneteenth Reflections

Juneteenth, like America, is an unfolding, unfinished story.

It is a story about Black slaves in Galveston, Texas, learning the news on June 19, 1865, that major Confederate armies had surrendered to Union Troops and that Black people in Texas were legally free. Union General Gordon Granger read aloud the wartime Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln two and a half years earlier. Even if some plantation owners tried to conceal the news until after the harvest, “Freedom Day” had finally arrived.

This story is embedded within a longer story. A story of heroic efforts to end the dehumanizing international slave trade and abolish everywhere its American cousin of racialized chattel slavery. Anti-slavery crusaders were active from before the American Revolution and continued through the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in December 1865. Heroes of this story include former slaves Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, and numerous allies like William Lloyd Garrison and Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner (the inspiration for my second son’s name).