On Juneteenth, we’ll look at how California is connected to this government holiday. Contrary to what most of us learned in school, California’s history of slavery is complicated, and the state is now trying to make up for past mistakes.
“Delayed recognition and delayed justice,” that’s how Gary Simon put it when Juneteenth became a government holiday just two years ago.
Simon has been in charge of planning Juneteenth events for the past 20 years. He is the executive head of the group Sacramento Juneteenth. And on this day, he talked about what he knew about slaves in California.
He told CBS Sacramento, “California hadn’t decided if it was going to be a free state yet, so many slave owners brought their slaves there.”
During the gold rush, many of them came from the South with their slaves. Even though California joined the union as a free state, it made deals with the South that let slaves like Archy Lee, a young man from Mississippi who was brought to Sacramento, be taken back.
Lee “sued his master, saying, ‘I’m not a slave,’ so it went to the Supreme Court of California,” Simon said.
The tweet below says “JBMF celebrates #Juneteenth and honors the lived experiences of Black communities in this country. “
JBMF celebrates #Juneteenth and honors the lived experiences of Black communities in this country. Today, we continue educating ourselves in California’s Black History anti-racism to build a more just Central Valley… pic.twitter.com/nsMTSeMuku
— The James B. McClatchy Foundation (@JBMcClatchy) June 19, 2023
Lee would be one of many slaves fighting for their freedom in California. Even after the Civil War ended and the 13th Amendment was passed, the Black community and its followers would have to call for a truly free state to happen. This makes the Juneteenth holiday even more important.
“We hope that people leave with a better understanding of what they don’t know and a willingness to accept it,” Simon said.
California is also thinking about giving money back to Black people who live there. Gov. Gavin Newsom has put together a group of people called a task team to look into possible financial compensation.
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