Today, on the second year of federal recognition for Juneteenth, the ACLU of Montana reemphasizes the importance of celebrating, elevating, and empowering Black Montanans. At the same time we recognize and name the ongoing role of federal, state, and local governments in degrading, disenfranchising, incarcerating, killing, and committing other attacks on Black people in the United States.
Centuries of Black community-building, resistance and rebellion to slavery in North America precipitated the American Civil War. Two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and over two months after the official end of the American Civil War, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas on June 19th, 1865 to bring the message that the war was over and that Black people were free from chattel slavery. Since then, the Black people of Galveston, Texas, and ultimately across the United States, celebrate Juneteenth as an opportunity to uplift Blackness and Black power and reflect on and commemorate the experiences and struggles of the past, while reuniting against ongoing oppression and violence.
One hundred and fifty-seven years after the first Juneteenth, full liberation still eludes the descendants of enslaved Black individuals. Today, we celebrate the legacy of Black Americans by continuing the fight for collective liberation. On Juneteenth, we all have the opportunity to reflect upon the historical and ongoing struggle for Black body liberation, and we implore all Montanans to join us in recommitting and fighting to eliminate the systems, attitudes, and forces that keep liberty elusive for Black Americans. The Black American existence is marked by an ongoing struggle against white supremacy – as it is the force, structure, and system that first enslaved Black Americans as chattel and continues to threaten their freedom and minimize their liberty (whether through the War on Drugs, incarceration, policing, redlining, intentional impoverishment, and other efforts). In order to fully embrace liberation, we must heal. Healing requires that we as a Nation acknowledge the brutality of white supremacy - how it has shaped dominant culture and racialized trauma that molds our current world.
Moreover, as we take time to absorb and metabolize the harrowing history of Black Americans, let us also make sure that our efforts include moments of Black joy. Black Americans continue to create joy, resist, and rise against all odds. Collective liberation means that each Black person has the ability to celebrate their full humanity. Join us in uplifting Black communities and individuals through recognizing and celebrating their humanity. Black people, please take time to rest, to love, to just be in a way true to yourself and ancestors.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” - Audre Lorde
Black people were and continue to be part of the history of Montana. In Montana in the forty years after the end of chattel slavery, Black people moved to the state residing, largely, in Helena, Butte, and Fort Benton. By the 1910s, over 1,800 Black people called Montana home. As for Montana’s recognition of Juneteenth, it has consistently failed as a state to recognize the importance and contribution of Black Montanans, lagging behind nearly every other state. Today, Montana continues to refuse to recognize Juneteenth as an official state holiday. Indeed, Representative Matt Rosendale voted against federal recognition of Juneteenth in 2021.
The ACLU of Montana recognizes that Black liberation remains paramount. Black people, specifically Black women, queer, trans, and other gender-nonconforming people, face ongoing racism, violence and harm. Juneteenth provides us with the opportunity to reflect on our shared past - the ugliness of slavery and its collective impact on all of us - and affirms our commitment to a wholly new future. This future is one in which we have equity in the opportunity to create a legacy wherein we acknowledge, respect, and support the intrinsic value of all human beings. This future must align with the wisdom of Montanan’s constitutional delegates who expressed their commitment to equity by including constitutional recognition that “the dignity of the human being is inviolable.”
“Emancipation wasn’t a gift bestowed on the slaves; it was something they took for themselves, the culmination of their long struggle for freedom, which began as soon as chattel slavery was established in the 17th century, and gained even greater steam with the Revolution and the birth of a country committed, at least rhetorically, to freedom and equality. In fighting that struggle, black Americans would open up the new vistas of democratic possibility for the entire country.” - Jamelle Bouie
EVENTS AND RESOURCES FOR JUNETEENTH
Events in Montana
Celebrate Juneteenth at the Montana Historical Society! in Helena
Historical Museum at Fort Missoula: Juneteenth Celebration in Missoula
Juneteenth—Come Celebrate Freedom Day! in Great Falls
Articles, Podcasts, and Books on Juneteenth and Blackness in the US
Juneteenth - HISTORY
What Is Juneteenth? - The New York Times (nytimes.com)
Juneteenth | NAACP
On Juneteenth, Black Leaders Detail Lingering Obstacles to Change - The Greenlining Institute
Juneteenth celebrates just one of the United States’ 20 emancipation days – and the history of how emancipated people were kept unfree needs to be remembered, too | The Conversation | bozemandailychronicle.com
158 Resources for Understanding Systemic Racism in America | History | Smithsonian Magazine
'People Will Insist That They are Not Racist': Robin DiAngelo on 'White Fragility' and the Way Forward | KQED
Angela Davis, Tamika Mallory appear on Juneteenth episode of 'Red Table Talk' (thegrio.com)
11 Podcasts About Juneteenth's History (bustle.com)
Listen to ‘1619,’ a Podcast From The New York Times - The New York Times (nytimes.com)
The Daily: The History and Meaning of Juneteenth on Apple Podcasts
Beyond Resilience Series - The Black Joy Playlist - YouTube
The Zora Canon: Essential Books By African American Women : NPR
30 Independent, Black-Owned Bookstores To Online From Now (theodysseyonline.com)
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein (goodreads.com)
The Best Juneteenth Books - Five Books Expert Recommendations
View and buy Black art by Black artist
African American Artists (nga.gov)
See In Black
10 Emerging Black Artists Show That Blackness Is Not a Monolith | Artsy
About Us | BlkArthouse: Find Black Art
Black Owned Art | Etsy
The Gee’s Bend Quilters | Etsy
Tell the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to Rename Places in Montana Currently Honoring Jefferson Davis
The State of Montana continues to fail to recognize Juneteenth and make meaningful strides for Black Montanans. The Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia and its variants, also known as the rebel flag or Confederate flag can be seen flying around Montana by racist white supremacists and Confederate monuments and designations remain in the state. This includes the Confederate Dam, Jeff Davis Peak, Confederate Gulch Road, and Jeff Davis Gulch. Montana should NOT be celebrating confederate leaders. Contact the Board on Geographic Names and demand that thes monuments' names are changed.