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MSU Will Commemorate Juneteenth In University Wide Event

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For the first time in its history, Michigan State University is hosting an in-person commemoration of Juneteenth. This celebration plans to honor one of the final acts of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States.

Although President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation took effect in 1863, the news of the abolition of slavery didn’t reach Texas until two years later, on June 19, 1865.

Now, that historic day is remembered as Juneteenth. Nakia Parker, a historian of nineteenth century U.S. slavery at Michigan State University, said the news of freedom was announced on Texas newspapers on that day as well.

“What happened is Union General Granger rides into Galveston, Texas and he comes with Union troops and makes this proclamation that now enslaved people are free in Texas,” she said.

While enslaved people in Texas found out they were free, Parker sees their freedom as relative. She said many of them had no money or possessions to fall back on and were encouraged to continue to work for their former masters.

“So they're free, but they have no money. They have been laboring for centuries without pay. So there's no money,” she said. “These kind of economic ties to former slaveholders really hindered Black people at the time.”

For Parker, celebrating Juneteenth serves as a beautiful symbolic gesture. One that she said is a reminder of how much more there is to do in the struggle for the liberation of Black people in the United States.

“We still see police brutality against Black Americans. We see voter suppression laws. We see less economic and social opportunities for Black Americans,” she added.

Parker will be offering a brief history lesson on Juneteenth during the MSU celebration. 

For Africana Film Studies Professor,  Tama Hamilton-Wray, the murder of George Floyd is an example of the ways Black Americans continue to suffer from the repercussions of slavery.

“George Floyd was not seen as a free person. He was seen as someone, by the officers, whose life was not valuable, and he could not move freely and had to be put down by the officer,” she explained.

Hamilton-Wray will be cohosting the Juneteenth comemoration at MSU. She hopes the event serves as an opportunity for people to honor the history of Juneteenth.

The family friendly celebration will feature a panel discussion, live music and food. The event will take place at MSU’s Munn Field starting at noon on Saturday.

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