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What is Juneteenth?

Updated: Jul 2, 2021

According to American historian Steven Mintz, enslaved, pregnant African Americans were forced to work three-quarters more than the average woman, even if they just were one week away from giving birth.

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day, is a holiday celebrated on June 19th. This day is meant to commemorate the liberation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. The reason why this holiday is celebrated on June 19th is because on that day in 1865, Union General Gordon Granger and other federal troops went to Galveston, Texas in order to declare all slaves free under the Emancipation Proclamation after the end of the Civil War. Over a century later in 1980, Texas was the first state to call June 19th a holiday, and now, 47 out of 50 states honor this day.

The Emancipation Proclamation, which was a document signed by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, was put into effect in order to restore freedom for slaves in Confederate states. The document stated, “all persons held as slaves within any States, or designated part of the State, the people whereof shall be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”

Although the main point of the Emancipation Proclamation was to grant freedom for slaves, it did not immediately liberate them. The proclamation was only valid for Southern states that were against the Union. Border states that were faithful to the Union, such as Missouri, Maryland, and Kentucky, were exempt from this document, which proves that not all slaves were freed. However, the Emancipation Proclamation was a pivotal moment in history because it illustrated Lincoln’s perspective on African American slavery, and this worked to eventually move toward the 13th Amendment and the special day of June 19, 1865.

What are the benefits of a diverse curriculum?

When schools are full of diversity, there are many benefits, including academic achievement and preparing students for adulthood. Diana Cordova-Cobo, Amy Stuart Wells, and Lauren Fox, who are professors at Teachers College, Columbia University, discussed the advantages to a broad educational system. In their paper, they stated, “researchers have documented that students’ exposure to other students who are different from themselves and the novel ideas and challenges that such exposure brings leads to improved cognitive skills, including critical thinking and problem solving” (Cordova-Cobo et al., 2016). Based on these studies, it is evident that children tend to be more intelligent and understanding when they are introduced to other kids with different economic statuses, ethnicities, and religions. Furthermore, the authors declared that people must be “comfortable working with colleagues, customers, and/or clients from diverse cultural backgrounds” (Cordova-Cobo et al., 2016). If students are exposed to different types of individuals at a young age, they will be more equipped to deal with various types of people they may come across in their future careers, which can serve as a pathway to success.

A diverse curriculum allows for higher grade-point averages (GPAs) and reduced dropout rates. Researchers from Stanford University noted that when students participated in ethnic studies courses, “attendance rose by 21 percentage points, while grade-point averages rose by 1.4 points” (Washington 2018). Furthermore, students who engaged in ethnic courses obtained 23 more graduation credits than people who did not take those types of classes, so it is clear that inclusive education has positive effects on academic achievement.

There are other positive aspects to a diverse learning environment, such as teaching students to be more accepting of their peers. When adolescents are educated about inclusivity, equality, and oppression, it prevents further discrimination because they are aware of different cultures and backgrounds from a variety of people, which allows for a world full of sympathy and peace.

When students do not learn from a diverse curriculum, it can have damaging effects, such as a lack of historical knowledge and being unaware of oppression. In a shocking study conducted by Southern Poverty Law Center, “only one-third of the respondents knew that the 13th Amendment ended slavery, [while] less than half knew about the Middle Passage, and only eight percent answered that slavery was the primary reason that the South seceded from the Union” (Daley 2018). Based on this research, there is a problem where schools fail to teach the history of slavery to adolescents. When younger generations cannot comprehend America’s past occurrences, they will not have worldly knowledge about issues in society today, such as racism, which goes backwards from creating a world full of liberty in the future.

African Americans have been oppressed for centuries, and even in modern society, racism is still prevalent. However, moving forward, the world can continue to fight discrimination by educating today’s youth about equality and acceptance in order to create a better and safer community for all.

Written and Researched by KYLIE FITZPATRICK


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