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FEATURING DR. YOHURU WILLIAMS - This interview was conducted for Yes! Magazine where Sonali Kolhatkar is the racial justice editor.

Until the May 2020 police killing of George Floyd and the mass uprising it sparked, most non-Black Americans had never heard of Juneteenth. The name Juneteenth is short for June 19th, the day in 1865 when enslaved African Americans in Texas were finally informed of the Emancipation Proclamation that ensured their freedom–almost two and a half years after it was signed by President Abraham Lincoln.

In June 2021, President Joe Biden signed a proclamation declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday and calling it, “A day in which we remember the moral stain and terrible toll of slavery on our country, what I’ve long called America’s original sin.”

This year, as Juneteenth falls on Father’s Day, cities around the country are marking the day with festivals, block parties, concerts, and more. But, as Biden said in his proclamation, slavery has left behind a “long legacy of systemic racism, inequality, and inhumanity,” which the federal holiday and yearly celebrations do little to address.

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