It’s been 155 years since the last group of slaves in the nation got word that they were free men and women. June 19, 1865, marked the official end to slavery in the U.S., and that date, each year, has since been known as Juneteenth.
“Galveston specifically is where the word was dropped and everybody found out,” Patricia Broussard, a law professor at Florida A&M University said. “I think about education and how we can’t ever stop educating people as to what has occurred in this country and what is still occurring.”
For Broussard, Juneteenth is a day she honors and celebrates her ancestors but she said it's also a bittersweet day.
“The day brings a little bit of sadness for me because one of the things that enslaved people or the thing that enslaved people have always wanted aside from freedom is to be Americans. To be included in the system,” Broussard said. “To reap the benefits of America. All of the riches of America, all of the rights that are America. That’s what enslaved people wanted. And rightfully so because they have built America.”
Despite the Emancipation Proclamation going into effect in January 1863, it took more than two years for newly free men and women to enjoy their freedom.
“The most probable reason would be because the Union presence in Texas was so limited,” Melissa Procko, research librarian at Orange County’s Regional History Center said. “And because of the size of Texas and how remote it was in comparison to the rest of the country at the time... it took some time for the Union troops to actually get there.”
Procko recalled when she was in school, Juneteenth was a day overlooked while learning about black history.
“It’s interesting as we’re getting older and we’re learning how white-washed I guess our history is. I remember with my education I was taught that once the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect that everyone who was enslaved was free. It’s one of those things that you don’t learn about in school,” Procko said.
But it wasn’t until May 30, 1991, Florida became the second state after Texas to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday.
In the wake of George Floyd’s death and the global impact it’s had, professor Broussard hopes communities will not fall back in the fight for equality and justice for all.
“We’re at a point in our culture in our society where we can make a real change,” she said. “I hope that we don’t miss this opportunity. I hope that all of these deaths have not been in vain. I hope that we use the knowledge that we have gained to move forward as a society.”