On Juneteenth, We’re Fighting to Teach the Truth of Our History with Race and Slavery as Extremists Try to Erase It

Graphic features an early black-and-white photo of three Black children. Text reads: Honoring Juneteenth. We're fighting to teach the truth of our history with race and slavery as extremists try to erase it.

As the newest federal holiday signed in 2021 by President Biden, Juneteenth is slowly becoming a quotidian topic of conversation. June 19, commonly referred to as Juneteenth, can be described as America’s second independence day — marking the day that freed people from slavery in the furthest Confederate-controlled region of Texas. 

Newly freed people in Texas celebrated Juneteenth as time passed, and the historical significance is well-known among Black communities. But just like the reality that the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation did not immediately end slavery, the same remains true about how little Juneteenth was talked about outside Black communities in the U.S. 

Marking the day as a national holiday is a big step forward in allowing future generations to understand the past and better our future. However, while we take one step forward, we’ve taken a step back here in Texas. Instead of allowing students to learn an honest, accurate, and quality education based on historical facts, state leaders are censoring what’s taught in our classrooms. 

In 2021, Gov. Abbott signed a bill into law that bans in K-12 classrooms the study of how race and racism have impacted social and political structures in the U.S. Since then, a slew of bans have popped up on literature for children relating to race or slavery.

To list a few:

  • “New Kid,” by Jerry Kraft
    • Request came to ban this children’s graphic novel because it is “about critical race theory, which is forbidden by Texas law.”
  • “47,” by Walter Mosley
    • Novel by a young boy in slavery who becomes swept up in the struggle for his own liberation.
  • “Ghost Boys,” by Jewell Parker Rhodes
    • The book recounts the story of a young black boy shot and killed by police. The boy becomes a ghost and sees the devastation that the police’s actions cause on his family and community.
  • “The Hate You Give,” by Angie Thomas
    • This is a story of a girl who witnesses police kill her Black friend and the aftermath it brings to their community.

The censorship doesn’t stop there, of course. Lawmakers and extremist allies are pushing a movement to deny youth access to books about the accounts and histories of all BIPOC folks and LGBTQIA+ communities. We see this in attacks against books like “Separate is Never Equal,” which tells the story of Sylvia Mendez and how her family’s organizing of their Hispanic community brought an end to the era of segregated education in California, and “I am Jazz” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, which is about the true story of a transgender girl from Texas. The list of books flagged as “inappropriate” goes on and on. 

In a way, it’s no surprise that our state government is trying to censor the education of Texas children. After all, as Nelson Mandela famously said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” And because of that, we must not let the government erase the stories of our past experiences and our communities. They’re too important. We’re too important. We just took a step forward in making Juneteenth a household topic of conversation, we must not allow the history and stories of that day to be forgotten. 

“We must not let the government erase the stories of our past experiences and our communities. They’re too important. We’re too important.”

TFN launched the Teach the Truth Campaign to combat book and educational censorship. So far, we’ve seen the Texas legislature attack many of our rights and freedoms. We understand that all of our struggles are connected, and because of it, we will not let government hate divide us. Texans from the Rio Grande Valley to Houston to Amarillo all deserve to have the same access to education, to clean air and water, and to a future where we all can prosper. 

Juneteenth was a celebration of freedom, of joy, and of the positive possibilities for the future of Black people in Texas and across the United States. We might be living in uncertain times, but as Juneteenth reminds us, while the world seems bleak, we as communities must not give up hope and fight for what is right.

Happy Juneteenth!

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