Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 that enslaved people in Texas finally learned that they were free, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Texan Opal Lee fought for decades to get Juneteenth recognized nationally, and her efforts were rewarded in 2021 when President Joe Biden signed a bill making June 19 a federal holiday.
Annenberg Classroom, part of the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC), has released a documentary “Juneteenth: Exploring Freedom’s Stories” that surveys the history of the holiday and illustrates how and why freedom and citizenship were intertwined. The film features Lee, Mary Frances Berry, a professor of history and Africana studies in the School of Arts & Sciences, Kermit Roosevelt, a professor at Penn Carey Law, and others discussing the recently-designated holiday, and how it is connected to freedom. They have hosted several events where the public can view the film and participate in a discussion.
“Annenberg Classroom’s mission is to provide free, nonpartisan, high-quality civic education resources to educators, students, and the general public. We created ‘Juneteenth’ with that goal in mind,” says Andrea “Ang” Reidell, director of outreach and curriculum at APPC’s Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics. “Educators throughout the country have expressed to me how excited they are to use the film and the accompanying teacher-developed lesson plans in their classrooms.”
Penn Today reached out to Berry and Roosevelt to discuss the holiday’s history, why it matters to all Americans, and how it was one landmark on the road to true liberty for all.
Mary Frances Berry is the Geraldine R. Segal Professor Emerita of American Social Thought and professor of history and Africana studies in the School of Arts & Sciences.
Kermit Roosevelt is the David Berger Professor for the Administration of Justice at Penn Carey Law School.