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Commemorating 6.19 & Coping with Racial Trauma

By Amanda Lamorte, LCSW

*Content adapted from "The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth" article published by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

"Today on Juneteenth, the day we celebrate the end of slavery, the day we memorialize those who offered us hope for the future, and the day when we renew our commitment to the struggle for freedom." Angela Davis spoke these eloquent words as a tribute to this historic day. It's important to recognize, however, that Juneteenth isn't actually the first commemorative event of its kind for Black Americans. For nearly 60 years prior to June 19, 1865, there were many other "Freedom Day" celebrations marking important milestones throughout Black History. Some dating back to the early 1800's. Here’s a snapshot:

  • January 1, 1804: Haiti becomes the first Black republic in the Americas

  • January 1, 1808: The end of the transatlantic slave trade, even though many white Americans continued to engage in illegal, international slave trade after 1808.

  • July 4, 1827: The abolition of slavery in New York. This however, was celebrated by many Black Americans on July 5th, so that it could have its own day to celebrate independence.

  • 1834: The end of slavery in the British West Indies. This became one of the most widely celebrated "Freedom Day" celebrations in the 19th century.

But who knew? Many Americans don't realize the depth of the history—-of the struggle to make freedom for blacks a "real thing.