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Professor details significance of Juneteenth aftermath

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Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2014 7:30 pm

Dwight Watson, a history professor from Texas State University, shared a dialogue, both historical and heart felt, discussing the lives of newly freed African Americans in the event of Juneteenth, and the childhood that morphed him into the inspiration he is today.

Watson delivered in a raspy voice his lecture about the aftermath of Juneteenth at an open event at noon on June 19 in University Hall. Juneteenth is an annual celebration that started in 1865, commemorating Texas’s first exposure to the news that Abraham Lincoln had delivered the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 declaring “all persons held as slaves within the rebellious states are, and henceforward shall be free.”

Watson also addressed the Jim Crow laws, a set of rules segregating the people of America spanning the 19th and 20th century, which were defeated multiple times in the legislature.

When told that blacks were happy being slaves as an undergraduate, Watson approached the dean of his college with his grievance.

“The dean’s response was ‘Are you mad about the fact she said it, or are you mad about the fact you don’t know enough to challenge it?,’” Watson said.

As one of the defining moments of his life, Watson said if they ever come across something that sounds wrong, they should go to the library and find an answer.

Eddie Freeman, the executive director of Employment and Equal Opportunity, wants to make sure the celebration of Juneteenth serves as a reminder of not only where America has been, but where it’s going.

“Juneteenth is a symbol for something greater,” Freeman said. “History is a blue print, not just a starting place. Sweeping it under the rug will not make an effective nation.”

Schnavia Smith Hatcher, director of the Center for African American Studies, wants the holiday to be recognized by the nation as a whole, not only within the confines of a demographic.

“In the past people may have thought of Juneteenth as something only black people recognized, but we hope now, people see it as symbolizing American history, not just black history,” Hatcher said.

Hatcher also said the center exists to broaden representation for all groups on campus.

Watson said that Lincoln’s announcement of freedom could be compared to a youth getting out of school, first overwhelmed with joy only to meet with the uncertainty of what came next.

@UTA Shorthorn

@benjamin.owens@mavs.uta.edu

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