As a curriculum theory scholar, I often engage in research centered on two critical questions: What knowledge is most worth knowing? And who determines what knowledge is most worth knowing?
Juneteenth — the June 19 commemoration of the belated announcement in Texas of the Emancipation Proclamation — is a celebration of knowledge received. But it is also a reminder of the power of the second question.
President Abraham Lincoln, a person in power, determined that Union troops and slave owners were responsible for providing information to enslaved people. But these two groups of people had different thoughts about the necessity to relay this information.
On Sept. 22, 1862, Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which declared freedom to all Confederate-held enslaved peoples effective Jan. 1, 1863.
On June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger informed a community in Galveston, Texas, that Lincoln had freed enslaved Americans in rebel states two and a half years earlier.
Why such a delay? The lag time was due to a provision that made it the responsibility of both Union troops and slave owners to inform enslaved African peoples. In some remote places where Union troops were absent, it was difficult to enforce this order.
Today we continue to celebrate in tribute to those who waited, unaware that the waiting was over.
Texas was particularly unaffected by the Emancipation Proclamation. Many slave owners from other southern states even moved there to avoid relinquishing their ownership and protect their perceived right to prosper. However, in the process, they withheld knowledge that prevented these enslaved peoples from making informed decisions about their lives.
What’s significant about this unofficial holiday is how the newly freed people responded to the knowledge received. Instead of focusing on disappointment, dismay or anger for the delay in receiving this information, they celebrated. Instead of languishing in the injustice, they made informed decisions designed to change the course of their lives.
It is a significant place in time for Black people — as well as all people –—because it marks a point in this country where racial healing could begin.
Juneteenth is significant for a nation living up to its creed: All men and women are created equal.
Today, we continue to celebrate in tribute to those who waited, unaware that the waiting was over. We celebrate the knowledge they received in that moment.
We remember their sacrifices, for these sacrifices provide this country with important lessons for today and our future. We celebrate the reality that knowledge is power. We celebrate freedom.
We celebrate our membership in this one nation, united.
Theodorea Regina Berry is UCF’s newly appointed vice provost of Student Learning and Academic Success and dean of the College of Undergraduate Studies. In her role, she drives efforts to offer students in her college robust programs while supporting university-wide initiatives to advance undergraduate education, take learning beyond the classroom, and promote greater student success. Berry works closely with the university’s provost, fellow deans and leaders of academic units to create and sustain a learning environment that enables students to thrive academically, professionally and civically.