Juneteenth to July 4th

An opportunity to reflect on Freedom and Racial Injustice

H - History

What is Juneteenth?

On September 22, 1862, President Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation calling for the liberation of all enslaved people by January 1, 1863. Unfortunately, the end of slavery was neither quick nor decisive in the way the Emancipation Proclamation led many to believe it would be.

In 1863, liberation from slavery was a reality for only a small subset of enslaved people and usually just those who could flee to “free” states. The Emancipation Proclamation was not implemented for years in states still under Confederate control. Texas at the time was the most remote region in the Confederacy and the approximately 250,000 enslaved people who lived in Texas did not begin the path to liberation until federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to mandate that “all slaves are free” on June 19, 1865. This date became known as the First Juneteenth and came to represent the day that slavery - as a legal institution - officially came to an end in the United States.

Why Do We Celebrate Juneteenth?

Nearly all fifty states recognize Juneteenth as an annual holiday or day of observance, however, 2021 will mark the first year Juneteenth is an observed holiday in the state of Massachusetts. There has been recent pressure to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. Just this week, President Biden signed into law a bill recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday.

Among so many other truths with our national history, Juneteenth reveals that slavery and oppression of former slaves did not end neatly on the day freedom was promised by the Emancipation Proclamation. In fact, horrifying discrimination against former slaves certainly did not end on the First Juneteenth. Nor, to this day, has systemic discrimination come to an end for the descendants of slaves and other people of color in the United States. Juneteenth and the day it represents is an opportunity to inspire a more honest conversation about our nation’s complicated past and present experience with racial injustice. We can explore Juneteenth as an opportunity to begin or to continue a dialogue on the underpinnings of white supremacy in the U.S. and how the conditions that gave rise to slavery are still with us today.

These conversations matter. Our state of Massachusetts - a so-called free state at the time of the Civil War- has its own disturbing history of slavery beginning in the early 1600s. Slavery flourished in our state for nearly two centuries. Massachusetts merchants and shipmasters engaged in the international slave trade in the late 1600’s through the late 1700’s. In fact, many famed buildings, such as Faneuil Hall, and hallowed institutions, such as Harvard Law School, were paid for by wealthy leaders in the slave trade and plantation owners. It was not until the 1780s that the state outlawed slavery. Sadly, however, similar to the situation with the Emancipation Proclamation, the end of slavery in Massachusetts was also neither quick nor decisive.

Massachusetts’ legacy is part of Hopkinton’s legacy. Hopkinton and the Hopkin’s Elementary School are named after Edwin Hopkins, a wealthy business owner and slave-owner. Other prominent founders and members of early Hopkinton also were slave-owners, including but not limited to Reverend Samuel Barrett and Sir Harry Frankland. There were enslaved people enduring untold suffering in our town for generations. Learn more about the history of slavery in Hopkinton put together by Hopkinton Public Library.

(Content Warning: Child death)

Centuries later, Hopkinton remains a white majority community. While Hopkinton enjoys increasing diversity for BIPOC, with expected student populations in some of our schools estimated to be as high as 40% diverse and non-white in the coming year, Black people are still among an extreme minority in our community. Most glaringly, our community witnessed the recent tragic loss of a Black child, Mikayla Miller. Mikayla’s death happened on the heels of the death of another child of color, Mason Lee. Both Mikayla and Mason are also identified as part of the LBGTQ+ community. This tragic trend of the deaths of two vulnerable youth in these specific demographics must be a call to action. As a community, clearly we must do more to support the more vulnerable, under represented and less privileged members of our community. As a community, we can do better to ensure that our town realizes its potential as a truly diverse, inclusive and equitable place for all of our residents, visitors and the people who work here. Education and dialogue is the foundation to this work.

Calls to Action & Resources

  • To that end, please join us for our Juneteenth programming beginning with the Hopkinton Stands Together Pledge and the raising of the Juneteenth flag at Town Hall and virtual Children’s Story Reading on June 19 at 2pm. Watch for our daily educational posts and calls to action from Juneteenth through July 4.

  • Visit the Hopkinton Public Library this month to view the Juneteenth Display for books, or check out the specially curated content for Juneteenth that the Hopkinton Public Library has made available here.

  • Also, you can help support minority owned businesses in our community and the Boston Area. Check out these resources (at Black Boston and the Boston Globe) to learn more.