In reading about Juneteenth this year, I was repeatedly struck by the fact that I don’t remember learning about this holiday when I was in school. Maybe it was in one of the side boxes in my textbook that seems designed for busy students to skip over as they race through their assigned reading. In talking to my mom, she also didn’t recall hearing about Juneteenth when she was in school. But I was caught off guard that my younger sister also did not remember learning about it – and her entire education took place in the 21st century.
In a blog post on Education Week, Washington and Lee student, Briyana Mondesir explains, “A lot of the way that schools depict [B]lack history, our history, is: [w]e were slaves, then Martin Luther King happened, and then everything's fine.” That sounds like an oversimplification, but that’s not far off from my memory of learning about Black history in high school. History teacher, India Meissel goes even further: “It's not just that teachers don't discuss the day, and its significance, in class. Many don't know about Juneteenth themselves. Meissel “remembers leading summer history and social studies trainings for elementary school teachers who had never heard of the day.”
So if Juneteenth was not a notable part of your education, as it wasn’t for me, we now have the opportunity to go back to school and try again. We get to dig into the reality that “emancipation wasn't a single point in time—it was a process,” as Meissel explains. Juneteenth is a cause for celebration, an independence day that included all Americans for the first time. And Juneteenth is a beginning, not an end. It’s heartening to see the attention this holiday is getting this year. At Collegewise, we are officially taking the day off from work, and as my colleague Arun said, “As you see fit, make it a wonderful and meaningful day!” In that spirit, here are some of the things I’ll be reading, watching, and listening to today: