History of Juneteenth:

On June 19th, 1865, two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Several theories have persisted to explain the two and a half year delay. Some believe a messenger was murdered on his way to deliver the news of freedom to Texas. Another theory is that the news was deliberately withheld from slaves. Still others believe federal troops waited to let slave owners reap the rewards of one final harvest. Regardless of the reason for the delay, as a result of the news, former slaves now had the opportunity to decide whether to stay and form an employer-to- employee relationship, or to leave the plantations or even leave the state entirely. The shock and joy of these newly free men and women faded as they faced a new challenge of establishing a place in society for black people in America. June 19th, later called Juneteenth, became a day to remember, reflect, reassure, and motivate former slaves and their descendants. Some even embark on a pilgrimage each year to Galveston to partake in the festivities and community, free of labor. (1)   

1. https://www.juneteenth.com

Official Juneteenth Poem:

“We Rose”

From Africa’s heart, we rose

Already a people, our faces ebon, our bodies lean,

We rose

Skills of art, life, beauty and family

Crushed by forces we knew nothing of, we rose

Survive we must, we did,

We rose

We rose to be you, we rose to be me,

Above everything expected, we rose

To become the knowledge we never knew,

We rose

Dream, we did

Act we must

Health Disparities:

As we celebrate Juneteenth, we must not forget the issues that still plague Black Americans to this day. The COVID pandemic reinforced the healthcare disparities.

Healthcare disparities amongst Black Americans exist in almost every pathological modality. From infectious diseases, such as viral hepatitis and HIV, to physiological diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, we see that Black Americans are disproportionately affected. As a society, we can go beyond merely acknowledging these disparities – we can act. As researchers, we can act to understand the environmental and economic conditions that contribute to these disparities. As physicians, we can act to reach these marginalized and disproportionately affected individuals. And as citizens, we can act to encourage our community leaders to make the systemic changes necessary to bring a more equitable and just society.

Juneteenth Celebrations Over the Years:

Early Juneteenth celebrations were an opportunity to remember lost family members and educate the rising generations with values of self-improvement and racial uplift. Descendants would often perform readings of the Emancipation Proclamation and partake in religious ceremonies and eat slave food delicacies, as well as incorporate new games and traditions. These often included baseball, rodeos, stock car races, and overhead flights (1)

In 1979, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official state holiday (1). Since then, 41 other states have recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday or holiday observance in remembrance of the end of slavery. Today, Juneteenth celebrations are held in most states, if not all, in the United States. In the south, these celebrations in modern day involve picnics, rodeos, church ceremonies, and educational and historical services for children (2).

1) https://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/...

2) https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/what-know-about-juneteenth-emancipa...

Resources to Learn More:

Brief History of Juneteenth:

Tedtalk: How Racism Makes Us Sick

More Information: Juneteenth.com

Iowa City Community Juneteenth Events can be found here

Prepared by:

Nolan Mattingly - SNMA 2020-2021 Co-President 

Ananya Munjal - SNMA 2020-2021 Secretary 

Rebecca Peoples - SNMA 2020-2021 Co-President

Image from: Juneteenth 2021 | City of Iowa City (icgov.org)