On Friday, current and former Black elected officials of Orange County came together for the Town of Carrboro’s virtual Juneteenth program.
Juneteenth is an annual holiday commemorating the symbolic end of slavery in the United States on June 19, 1865, when enslaved Black people in Texas were told they were free following President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation 2.5 years earlier.
Although not yet recognized as a national holiday, Texas was the first state to recognize the day in 1980. 47 states and the District of Columbia have since joined Texas, including North Carolina.
The program began with an introduction from Carrboro Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Foushee, who spoke on the significance of the holiday. Renee Price, vice-chairperson of the Orange County Board of County Commissioners, then introduced the Orange County resolution that officials would be reading from.
“Now therefore be it resolved,” North Carolina Senator Valerie P. Foushee read, “that we, the current and former African American elected leaders in the Orange County, North Carolina, being descendants of enslaved and free Black Africans and African Americans, have a legacy that we shall uphold and a heritage that we shall honor.”
Joal Broun, a member of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School's Board of Education, continued reading the resolution.
“And be it resolved,” Broun continued, “that we, the African American elected officials in Orange County, do hereby pledge to continue the fight for civil rights and human rights that began 400 years ago, despite resistance, violence and discriminatory legislation or court decision.”
The proclamation, titled “Resolution in Recognition of our 400 Years” also promised to endeavor to disrupt intergenerational cycles of poverty, marginalization and disenfranchisement and reform a criminal justice system that has targeted people of color unfairly and unjustly.
Following the reading of the resolution and a recognition of past Black elected officials, Foushee introduced Freddie Parker, a professor of history at North Carolina Central University, to give a presentation on the history of Juneteenth.
“I can talk about Juneteenth, 1865, today by starting with a discussion of what is happening in America and around the world,” Parker said. “Surely we would be remiss if we did not weave the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin and many others into a history of racial terror and a blatant disregard for the Black body.”
Parker outlined a history of racial violence in the United States following Juneteenth, which he said was only the first stage of ending slavery in 1865 prior to the passage of the 13th Amendment in December of that year.
“To a great extent, what we saw in 1870 and 1871 in Alamance County, North Carolina, efforts to suppress the Black vote, we still see today,” Parker said. “The long lines we saw in Georgia we saw just three days ago were efforts to suppress the vote. Efforts by the president of the United States and others across the country are not at all different from (what) occurred in North Carolina and especially throughout the South in the late 19th century. But in the face of Jim Crow laws, lynching, voter suppression and racial terror in general, we must always look at how Black folk responded to their condition.”
He also discussed how disenfranchisement, betrayal by the government and the founding of hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan have shaped the lives of Black people since the ending of slavery, and continue to do so, but also discussed the myriad developments in legislation, education and organization that Black Americans have made in the face of adversity.
“Freedom continues to come with a huge price. It is our duty to continue the struggle to ensure that what happened on June 19, 1865, never leaves us, and we continue to ensure that it becomes a reality in every aspect of our lives," Parker said.
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