Norfolk State professor speaks to News 3 about Juneteenth history, creation of federal holiday

Juneteenth Lincoln Museum
Posted at 6:51 AM, Jun 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-18 07:17:14-04

NORFOLK, Va. - "History is exciting, it's diverse, it's never on a simplistic track."

And that's why history is so interesting to Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander, a professor of history at Norfolk State University. She's also the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, and serves as director of the university's Joseph Jenkins Roberts Center for the study of the African Diaspora.

Newby-Alexander told News 3 this week she believed Juneteenth would become a national holiday due to its historical significance. On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed into law a bill overwhelmingly passed by Congress giving Juneteenth status as a federal holiday in the United States.

The day commemorates June 19, 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas to declare enslaved Black people as free.

On the history of Juneteenth, Newby-Alexander said:

"Texas had a large and growing African American population that was, I would say, concentrated in East Texas, and that was of course where Galveston was located. This group of people, even in the face of all this violence, decided that they were going to not only remember the important date of June 19th, but they were going to host celebrations so that not only would they demonstrate their resistance to the white supremacy and the violence against them, but they would tell their children and their children's children's children about their experiences and about the importance of not only the Civil War, but of that moment in their history."

According to Newby-Alexander, the declaration of Juneteenth as a federal holiday shows that the fight for rights for African Americans is not "a one and done," adding:

"To celebrate and commemorate that date is an important way to remember the past because the reason we have holidays, the reason we have these commemoration periods is for people to stop for a minute, reflect and to remember. And so Juneteenth would provide the nation for that kind of opportunity to stop, reflect and remember. That is the best and most important way to not only ensure that we don't go back to that era, but that we begin to appreciate more where we are today."

Click HERE for a list of Juneteenth events happening around Hampton Roads.