It wasn’t until two and a half years after Lincoln emancipated enslaved Blacks in America that the news was heard in Galveston, Texas.
That day, June 19, 1865, has been forever known as ‘Juneteenth’ and more recently as Freedom Day, the day that Blacks were finally free.
But in the 155 years since that day, Blacks in America are still struggling to find true equality. Hundreds of years of systemic and institutional racism has continued to keep that dream away.
In The Bronx, we have seen it played out through the disinvestment of our communities by government agencies, redlining by banks, dumping of polluting industries in low-income and predominantly BIPOC communities and the resulting health crisis.
With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, our borough became the epicenter with the highest rates of infection as well as highest rates of mortality due to the coronavirus. And in within the Black community, the impact has been particularly devastating with a significantly higher mortality rate.
On Juneteenth we remember the thousands of Black women that came to the old Lincoln Hospital to study and become nurses, many who came not just from around the country but from the Caribbean and even Africa.
We remember the resiliency of that community spirit that is The Bronx way that helped rebuild our borough from the ashes.
Take a look at the video below on Fordham’s Bronx African-American History Project which recorded the oral histories of hundreds of Black Bronxites between 2002 and 2018 giving a unique insight into the past. After the video follow the link to the archives so you can read or listen to the histories for yourself.
To listen or read some of the hundreds of oral histories, you can go to the digital archive here. You can learn about Robert Nesbitt who was born in 1924 and was in the Tuskegee Airmen Unit or Ms. Genevieve Smith-Brown who was born in 1937 and was a fierce activist and president of the Mid-Bronx Desperadoes.
You can also learn about our beloved late, Morgan Powell, a friend and fighter for environmental justice and a fierce local historian.
The archive is a beautiful window to the many unsung heroes of our beloved Bronx and Black Americans that should be celebrated every day not just in February or on Juneteenth.
They are the the people we should be teaching our children in school in history classrooms.