This year for the first time as an organization, GBH is recognizing Juneteenth, a day that holds significant meaning for African Americans. It was on June 19, 1865 that slaves in Texas were officially freed, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Newly freed slaves in Texas celebrated the first Juneteenth in 1866, making it the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. The U.S. Congress recently voted to make it a federal holiday, sending it to President Biden to sign into law.

Despite the significance of this day, there are many Americans who know little about it. As you observe the holiday, take time to commemorate, celebrate and learn. It is in keeping with the intentional steps we have been taking at GBH to become more aware and enlightened, and move to acknowledgement and action. For those of us who did not hear about Juneteenth earlier in our lives, we should use the day to become more educated about the meaning of Juneteenth.

Public media has many resources to turn to that provide the historical context, including a wonderfully contextualized and thoughtful discussion on last week’s Basic Black. That conversation, and many others, explore the significance and symbolism of the day, and the opportunity it provides at this moment to consider the meaning of freedom. It can be a day to challenge one’s understanding of equality, share different experiences, and re-examine our own views about race and equity.

In the spirit of the day, we hope you are able to celebrate with your loved ones and reflect in a way that adds to our shared understanding, as community members, and as Americans. This Juneteenth, we hope that everyone takes the opportunity to reflect on the past, how it shapes our present, and our duty as public servants to building a better future.

For a list of resources and programming related to Juneteenth, visit the GBH Racism: Coverage and Context page.