DETROIT – In various places around the nation there is a reckoning and a recognition of the importance of acknowledging and celebrating the freeing of slaves and many have latched onto Juneteenth, a holiday started and celebrated, largely in Texas after a group of slaves discovered they had been freed many years prior.
What historians want to make sure of is that the events surrounding the recognition of Juneteenth are not white washed and not revised, but to be recognized for what they are, as part of a real reckoning with truth and reconciliation in this country around slavery.
Kimberly Simmons an author and well-recognized historian from Detroit is concerned about the nation’s grasp and acceptance of that particular event currently making the history book rounds as June 19, 1865, also known as Juneteenth, Jubilee Day, Freedom Day and Emancipation Day, because it was anything but Emancipation Day.
“Every time we relinquish a piece of our history, or we build a layer on top of it that doesn’t quite tell the truth, we are losing our story,” said Simmons.
Elise Harding Davis is a Canadian heritage consultant and former curator of the Amherstburg Freedom Museum in Ontario.
The two historians on both sides of the border agree, the importance of Juneteenth wasn’t that enslaved human beings were suddenly free, but that they discovered they were free and had been for some time so another way to look at Juneteenth is to recognize that white slave owners had illegally duped human beings into the continued horrendous condition of slavery, an additional two and a half years after Lincoln freed the slaves.
And so where the river divides us so does the cultural recognition of enslaving, slavery and the emancipation of slaves and its longitude and latitude on the human soul.
And part of our history is what we share with our neighbors to the north and south in Canada who understand the importance of recognizing the emancipation of slaves globally as Canada has its own historical reckoning of its indigenous and African slaves as part of the United Kingdom which had slaves on every continent it conquered.
Yet, this year Emancipation Day, Aug. 1 becomes a national holiday in Canada, which recognizes, acknowledges and seeks to educate the global importance of ending legalized slavery.
“All freedom is precious, and all freedom should be enjoyed and celebrated, but we should tell the truth, because there was more than one freedom and one is no more important than the other,” said Davis.
There are several Juneteenth events planned in Metro Detroit this year. You can view the list below.