The history and meaning of Juneteenth

Detroit incorporating Juneteenth, local history into K-12 curriculum

DETROIT – Historian Ken Coleman said Detroit has a lot of Black history.

“Growing up in Detroit, I developed a passion for the city’s history, especially the city’s history that involves African Americans,” Coleman said.

Friday, Coleman met with Local 4 at Ralph P. Bunche Prep Academy, one of Detroit’s historical jewels.

“What’s significant about being here at Ralph Bunch on Juneteenth Day is more than 200 years ago, African Americans, men in Michigan volunteered to fight on the Union side during the Civil War,” Coleman said.

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Coleman said those 900 men left from the very spot in 1863 and headed down south. Over the next two years, many of those soldiers witnessed the good news of freedom on June 19, 1865, known as Juneteenth.

“Was the day that Union forces informed Blacks in Galveston, Texas that the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed two years prior, meaning that they were free. So what happened over the years, for many years and decades, Juneteenth was a regional celebration,” Coleman said.

Coleman said the death of George Floyd is causing everyone to wake up, hence the reason why many states and corporate businesses are honoring Juneteenth now.

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“Hopefully what we’ll see in 10-20 years, is the celebration of Junteenth become a part of the American Mosaic just like the Martin Luther King holiday. George Floyd particular, the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. I think propelled a lot of people, both White and Black and other, to consider and reconsider where America is in terms of race relations, there’s no doubt about it, the corporations that you see that have stepped up in recent days to acknowledge Juneteenth, they done it because of, or after the George Floyd killing, let’s be clear about that.”

Coleman said this history is not taught in public schools and many don’t know about Juneteenth. He said Detroit is incorporating Juneteenth and local history into the K-12 curriculum, but again Detroit is just one school system.


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