Juneteenth Falls on Father's Day This Year. Why That Seems Fitting for Me.
By Wini King, Chief of Communications, Inclusion, Equity and Diversity at Cook Children’s and Diversity Chair, Greater Fort Worth Chapter of Public Relations Society of America.
This year’s celebration of Juneteenth falls on Father’s Day – an occurrence that won’t happen again until 2033, 2044 and 2050.
For many of us, June 19 will be a day of celebration; however, for numerous others, including me, it will be a time of reflection.
I will think about my father, Clement Washington, who was the calming influence in our family. My mother was a character, full of vim and vigor.
My dad, on the other hand, was the quiet authority figure in my house. He didn’t say a lot, but when he did speak, we knew we’d better listen.
I miss my father and think about him almost daily. My relationship with him is complicated. I love my father with all my heart and think about how he shaped the person I am today.
I reflect on Juneteenth in much the same way. The day represents sufferings that have helped to shape the state and the nation we are today.
A little history
June 19 certainly reminds us of Texas’s and our country’s grim past in race relations. Juneteenth also prompts us to see how far we’ve come and that there is still work to do.
Juneteenth celebrates the declared liberation of the last remaining slaves of the Confederate States of America. June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas, there were still slaves two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect Jan. 1, 1863.
Even after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered April 9, 1865, slaves remained in Texas. It was still two months later – June 19, 1865 – when Union Army General Gordon Granger finally proclaimed General Order No. 3 and declared, “All slaves are free.”
The freedmen were advised to “remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages.”
As Michael Davis wrote in the National Archive News, “While the order was critical to expanding freedom to enslaved people, the racist language used in the last sentences foreshadowed that the fight for equal rights would continue.”
The one and only Opal Lee
I want to thank the noble fighters and my fellow PR professionals across the country who continue to do good work to bring attention to Black people’s struggles and triumphs throughout our nation’s history. I especially want to recognize the “grandmother of Juneteenth,” Fort Worth’s own Opal Lee.
Ms. Opal walked from Fort Worth to Washington D.C. to draw attention to the true meaning of Juneteenth. Opal’s advocacy paid off in 2021 when June 19 was designated a federal holiday.
I am so proud of Opal Lee and everyone who worked determinedly for us to understand the significance of this date for Texans and for Americans.
I will take this Father’s Day to reflect on my own father and all fathers who were finally declared “freedmen.” They clothed themselves in dignity when so many tried to strip them of their liberties. Happy Father's Day everyone and Happy Juneteenth.