June 17, 2022

Juneteenth Overview

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness is etched into the DNA of the United States of America. It is the ultimate act of freedom that continues to enlighten and inspire all Americans and millions of others from across the globe who seek to see these ideals manifested in their day to day lives. The enslaved population of this nation sought freedom every minute when they were in bondage and this was a central dispute that led to the Civil War.

General Gordon Granger arrived in Texas two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was instituted and well after the 13th Amendment was passed, to announce that slavery had come to an end. The enslaved in Texas were toiling in a system of brutality and evil while others had tasted the sweetness of some form of freedom, this was by design. Many land and slave holders opted to not tell the enslaved that they were free for as long as possible. Felix Haywood who was born into slavery, recalled that special day on June 19, 1865:

“Soldiers, all of a sudden, was everywhere – comin’ in bunches, crossin’ and walkin’ and ridin’.

Everyone was a-singin’. We was all walkin’ on golden clouds. Hallelujah!

‘Union forever

Hurrah, boys, hurrah!

Although I may be poor,

I’ll never be a slave—

Shoutin’ the battle cry of freedom.’

“Everybody went wild. We all felt like heroes and nobody had made us that way but ourselves. We was free. Just like that, we was free.”

Juneteenth is a celebration of the hurdles we have overcome as a nation, homage to the millions of human beings that were forced to live in this system, and a symbol of work that we must continue to do as a nation to eradicate bigotry, racism, and other forms of divisions. The recent mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, is akin to the slave holders that did not want to announce that freedom was granted. Juneteenth is a reminder that all of us have a responsibility, an obligation, and a duty to ensure all members of our community and nation are engulfed with freedom and all of the comforts, rights, and responsibilities that come with it.

Nacimiento De Los Negros: The Afro-Mexican Town That Celebrates Juneteenth

One of the most commonly overlooked aspects of this holiday is the significant role that Mexico played in fighting against the institution of slavery. In fact, in 1829, Vicente Guerrero, who was a Mexican man of African descent, abolished slavery in Mexico 34 years before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. In doing so, over 200,000 enslaved people in Mexico were freed and this action opened a pathway and provided a sense of safety for enslaved Africans seeking freedom.

As a result, the Afro-Mexican community in Nacimiento de los Negros in the state of Coahuila was once home to thousands of people who fled to Mexico as a means of escaping slavery in the United States. Historians estimate that as many as 10,000 enslaved people followed what is known as the “Southern Underground Railroad” to Mexico for freedom.

Though there are currently very few Black people living in this region, they have celebrated Juneteenth for over 150 years as a “means to show solidarity with their brethren in the U.S.”

To this end, at New Brunswick Public Schools, we have chosen to also honor and celebrate this momentous occasion in history. We encourage you to use these resources in order to ensure that this generation of learners understands the significance and relevance of this once unknown bit of history.

PearDeck Wonder Pack

In this Wonder Pack, students learn the origins and significance of Juneteenth. As with all Pear Deck lessons, the magic often happens when students first have time to answer a prompt for themselves and then to discuss what they’ve learned.

Celebrating Juneteenth in New Brunswick!

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The New Brunswick Cultural Center is in need of NBPS students and colleagues for assistance in installing a large-scale chalk art mural (see image below) in the intersection of Livingston Avenue, Liberty Street and George Street, from 9am – 4pm on the 17th.

If you or your students are interested, please reach out to Marisol Curtis email marisol_curtis@nbpsnj.net

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Curriculum and Instruction Department

Content Created by: Curriculum & Instruction Department