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OUR VOICES: Juneteenth – A Time of Reflection, Confusion, Racism & Celebration


By Roger Caldwell

As a graduate of Howard University, there was very little conversation and discussion about Juneteenth, and it being recognized as freedom day.

For two centuries slavery defined America, while the first 10 presidents owned slaves, and 4 million Black people were enslaved.

The slaves were a key element to the economy, and their labor built the country.

Ex-President Abraham Lincoln became president in 1860, and in April 1861 seven southern states seceded from the Union, and the Civil War started.


These states called themselves the Confederacy. Even though slavery was a major issue in the Civil War, the Border States in the north were allowed to keep their slaves. On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln freed the slaves in the south with the Emancipation Proclamation.

Freeing the slaves in the southern states was about winning the war and the Civil War ended May 1865.

The 13th Amendment was passed in the legislature and signed into law in December 1865.

On June 19, 1865, Union Major-Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas – the most remote outpost of the Southern slave states – confirmed that slaves were freed 2 years ago.

It took two years for the slaves to recognize they had been freed, and now it is a federal holiday. As a federal holiday many Blacks still don’t understand the importance of the day, but my friend says take advantage of any holiday Black folks are given. Some Blacks are angry with this holiday, and others are happy to have a holiday.


There is so much confusion with the dates, the holiday, and the proclamation was more strategic than liberating. Blacks and racism — the major reason for the Civil War, and Blacks are still fighting for their equality and their human rights in 2023.

“Making Juneteenth a federal holiday is a major step forward to recognize the wrongs of the past,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY., said in a statement, “but we must continue to work to ensure equal justice and fulfill the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation and our Constitution.”

Juneteenth is America’s second longest running independence day and serves as an opening for deeper conversations about systemic racism, civil and human rights, economic opportunities, healthcare disparities, and more access to leadership positions.

The day signifies liberation, and freedom with parades, music, libations, honoring our ancestors, our children, and keynote speakers sharing the truth. Throughout the nation, communities will observe Juneteenth in many different ways, with the goal to educate, inspire, and move forward together.

With Juneteenth being a national holiday, it will grow, and more Americans, Blacks, and people of color will participate. There is power in numbers, and at every holiday event there should be advocates getting more Black people to register and vote. It is very important to share resources and educate the attendees to “Buy Black.”


The Black community is hurting with violence, guns, drugs, and chronic diseases. Juneteenth has the potential to be great, and there is so much work to be done.

On Juneteenth, there should be more than music and dancing; there should be intergenerational conversations to build better relationships and share more ideas. As Juneteenth grows to be larger each year, there should be a rallying call for unity to study and teach our history.

Support the brothers and sisters on the front line, and continue to move forward in unity, love, and truth. Juneteenth should be a time of celebration everywhere, and please keep it respected, revered, and never forgotten.

Roger Caldwell is from Newark, NJ, where he attended Weequahic High School before going on to Howard University. He is a freelance writer who owns a Public Relations Company, On Point Media Group. Reach him at

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