BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Sunday is June 19, also known as Juneteenth. Juneteenth recognizes the day in 1865 when Union Soldiers brought news of emancipation to enslaved African-Americans in Galveston, Texas, marking an end to centuries of oppression.
“Juneteenth means celebration. It also means remembering the ones that have come before us,” said Patrick Jackson, President of the Bakersfield NAACP. “The freedom that we get to enjoy today came on the backs of those that didn’t have the opportunity.”
President Biden declared Juneteenth a federal holiday last year.
“Once you make it a holiday, that opens the door for people to be educated about it at a younger age,” said Jackson. “So you can grow up as a child knowing what Juneteenth is. Then, when summer comes, you’re looking forward to it.”
While Americans celebrate the end of slavery, Jackson says the fight against inequality is far from over, especially when it comes to economics.
A study by nonprofit group Center for American Progress blames centuries of policies making it harder for black Americans to earn money and pass it on. The study uses data from the Federal Reserve, showing the typical black household was only 12.7% as wealthy as their white counterparts in 2019. Jackson says it’s important to consider racial discrimination in employment was legal until the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“1865 isn’t when racism stopped,” said Jackson. “We’re still so far behind the eight ball in trying to create ways to put African-Americans in a better position economically, which will affect education, which will affect health, so on and so forth.”
He says Juneteenth isn’t just part of Black history, it’s a piece of American history.
“It’s so important to understand your heritage, understand where you come from,” said Jackson. “Pride of where you come from, because so much of our history was stricken from us.”