Letters to the Editor

Education: Let's celebrate Juneteenth

I was invited to a Juneteenth celebration and had to go on the Web to find out what it was. This is an officially recognized holiday for Americans of African descent, and has been since 1997. Since Oak Harbor celebrates ethnicity with vigor and zest, I agreed to join in the prayers of thanksgiving, enjoyment of music, a barbecue, and other festivities.

In 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves, but failed to get the news beyond the states that fought in the Civil War. So slavery continued on until 1985, until the news finally reached the last of the cotton crop states. Rumor has it that the news was withheld in order to get in a few more free harvests of cotton. The President sent a Union Army emissary on a mission that got the proclamation known throughout the entire United States. Thus it certified the maxim that “until all are free, none are free.” The June 19th, Juneteenth Independence Day was born and in 1997 became an official holiday by Presidential and Congressional decree as completing the “cycle of freedom” along with the 4th of July.

Since slave children were not allowed to be schooled in those days, the honor rolls at Oak Harbor High School demonstrated that the descendants of these non-schooled people have overcome that wrong. Hopefully, at next year’s scholarship ceremony more local grantors will give these young black students a further boost by giving them a helping hand in their struggle to move up and gain higher education. The few who received assistance and honors this year came from Unity Fellowship, a black organization, and one from the American Legion. A somewhat poor showing considering the Honor Society ribbons worn by a number of black graduates, and the large number of local grantors.

There have been underlying complaints in Oak Harbor that there might still be a touch of discrimination there. Perhaps the grantors were color-blind and the phenomena was merely the luck of the draw.

True freedom is gained through education … let’s celebrate Juneteenth as intended.

Beverly Casebeer


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