Today, people across the nation will celebrate Juneteenth—a holiday I only learned about in recent years. As Jemar Tisby writes, “Juneteenth may be the perfect holiday for Black people to take the day off. Historically, it has been celebrated by Black communities as an occasion for exuberance.”
Tisby wants white people to recognize the significance of this day without asking Black people to do the work of educating us about that significance. Again, Tisby writes:
“First, white people can educate themselves and other white people. Much of the labor Black people feel compelled to do on holidays such as Juneteenth is teaching white people about Black people. This is an important task, and no one is better equipped for it than Black people, but there’s also this thing called the internet. And we still have books (if they haven’t been banned in your area). And museums, and art installations, and so much more.”
For those of us who want to learn more, King: A Life, by Jonathan Eig, is one place to start. Eig’s masterful storytelling offers lots of details without getting bogged down by data points.
I’m wrestling with the complexities of King’s moral compromises and failures alongside his commitment to the gospel and to justice and his depth of conviction that goodness can win out. I’m riveted by the stories of how this very human man came to be one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. And I’m learning—about King’s family and education, and therefore about America, North and South, throughout those years.
I commend King: A Life to anyone who wants to wrestle and learn and understand why Juneteenth is a day worthy of celebration.
(And here’s a list of other books and resources that have helped me begin to learn some of the unacknowledged truths of our history as it pertains to race in America. And here’s a 3-Day Civil Rights Tour Itinerary for Families)
More with Amy Julia:
Norman Rockwell Museum: Illustrating Race
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