Juneteenth – June 19th, 2024

(AGinsider/AFRnews) Wednesday, June 19, 2024 – The USDA will observe the annual holiday that marks the end of slavery in America. Juneteenth, while a celebration of freedom and an important moment not just in African American history, but in American history, offers an opportunity to reflect on the hope it gave Black Americans.

“When peace come, they read the ‘Mancipation law to the cullud people,” said former slave Pierce Harper in 1937, as he recalled how slaves in Texas learned that the Civil War had ended, and they had been freed at least two years earlier.

This important day is also known as Jubilee Day, Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, but what is most notable about this holiday is the fact that Juneteenth honors the liberation of enslaved African Americans not just in Texas but across the nation. The first Jubilee Day celebrations occurred in 1866 and saw the newly freed celebrating with parties, traditional food and vivid songs. A close examination of the history of the day and how Juneteenth came about reveals a great deal about how the early twentieth century links segregation and racial discrimination to the resiliency of the human spirit. It also presents an opportunity to reflect on how the history of slavery has influenced modern day society, including its relationship with agriculture.

Juneteenth offers a platform to educate others about the significant contributions of African Americans to agriculture throughout history. Despite facing numerous challenges and systemic barriers, African Americans have brought extensive knowledge, skills and sustainable farming practices that — through the observation of Juneteenth — demonstrates the value of greater diversity and inclusivity in the agricultural industry.

Juneteenth celebrations serve as a reminder of the need for increased representation and leadership of African Americans in agriculture. The emergence of African American leaders can be achieved by supporting and promoting positive images of Black farmers, agricultural entrepreneurs, researchers and policymakers. Diverse voices and perspectives in decision-making processes lead to more inclusive agricultural policies and practices.

Juneteenth events and initiatives uplift economic empowerment and social equity resulting in resources, funding opportunities and training programs specifically targeted towards Black farmers and agricultural businesses. By addressing historical inequities and facilitating access to capital and markets, Juneteenth fosters economic growth and self-sufficiency within Black farming communities. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture strategic initiative of fostering inclusivity, diversity and social equity within the agricultural realm aligns well with the purpose and intent of the Juneteenth celebration.

Overall, Juneteenth is a powerful catalyst for change and diversity in agriculture by promoting education, representation, economic empowerment, land access and collaboration. The federal holiday acknowledges the historical struggles and contributions of African Americans in agriculture and creates a path towards a more equitable and inclusive future for all individuals involved in the industry.

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