Juneteenth is an important day in American history. Despite slavery being abolished in 1863, some Black Americans were held un-lawfully in bondage. June 19th commemorates the day that the last group of African-American slaves was finally notified of their legal emancipation and freedom. After several deadly attempts to inform the White owners and perpetrators of these peoples’ human rights, it took a military march into Texas by General Granger in 1865 to proclaim the following and for everyone to become educated on the new American laws:
"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer."
It is essential to understand and reflect on the reasons for observing June 19th, in order for our nation to continue healing from this undeniable time in American history. The name is a combination of the nineteenth day of June and is now a national holiday.
Today, The Idaho Black History Museum is hosting a free Juneteenth event to help educate and support one another in our Boise community. Philip Thompson, the Museum’s operator, says:
“This is a day for reflection. It’s important to remember that while the Idaho territory was being formed, many Confederate and slave-owning people were migrating to the wildlands of Idaho in an attempt to escape the coming regulation of the Lincoln administration. President Lincoln fast-tracked the statehood of Idaho to prevent further infection of this mindset into the land.”
Idaho’s Black History
Idaho was also a land where Black Americans sought new opportunities, Philip tells me. People of all backgrounds were coming to Idaho for a chance at success. There was tension between these new Black and White communities, but there were also opportunities unlike anywhere else in the United States. After the brutal events of the Tulsa Race Massacre and destruction of Black Wall Street, a thriving community of Black Americans, along with roughly 33 other similar race-related crimes sweeping the nation, Philip informed me that some of the survivors and communities of those events fled to Idaho. Here they found the opportunity to own land. In fact, early in Idaho’s state history, Philip’s ancestors were landowners and homesteaders.
A fifth-generation Idahoan, Philip, and his family have been groundbreaking members of our local history for decades. The Baptist church was led by his great, great, great grandfather, Rev. William Riley Hardy. The Reverend, Idaho’s first Black pastor, purchased the land that the church was first built on in 1921. Philip remembers attending service here as a young man and what it was like to watch his grandmother and mother, Mary Hardy Buckner, and Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, rally support from the Boise community to preserve the church. It was closed for service in the early 90’ and later opened as the Idaho Black History Museum in 1999. Phillip’s valuable perspective and an opportunity to have a greater understanding of Idaho’s connection to Black history is all the more reason to visit the Juneteenth event and the museum.
You will see intentionally curated exhibits at the museum, like a grand painting of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., by local artist Pablo Rodriguez, an informational placard with photos of some of Idaho’s first Black citizens, and a hauntingly preserved Klans member uniform from Silver City, Idaho.
Remember the stained glass window depicting President Abraham Lincoln and Confederate General Robert E. Lee that hung in the halls of the Cathedral of the Rockies? Soon you will be able to witness it and learn about its Idaho history at the Idaho Black History Museum.
The Schedule of Events
June, 19th, 2021, 10 am
508 Julia Davis Dr., Boise, ID
- Opening Remarks by Kayla George
- A reading of Gov. Brad Little’s 2021 Juneteenth Proclamation and brief remarks by Philip Thompson
- Speech by Abraham Lincoln (Skip Citrell) about Emancipation, Reconstruction, and Reunification of the country
- You can donate to the museum here: Donate Info
Stay in touch with The Idaho Black History Museum on their Facebook or by visiting their website
IBHM Facebook Page ibhm.org
Important Reminders and Actions You Can Take
- Acknowledge that this day is primarily for Black Americans to honor, celebrate or remember however they see fit. Stay respectful of events and who they are asking to attend.
- Educate yourself on the events following the national abolition of slavery, like Reconstruction, Redlining, and Mass Incarceration.
- Read, attend conferences and talks, and follow Black voices on social media.
- Support local Black-owned businesses this weekend and in the future. Read our list of businesses and resources here: Rising Up with Our Local Community
- Recognize this day as a moment for rest and education.
- Head to the Boise Library! for a day of reading to honor the holiday. Philip suggests On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed.
- Work for equal housing in the Treasure Valley as prices begin to become inaccessible to a large portion of residents.
- Take local action! Understand what is going on with your community. If you’re interested in being a part of the growing movement for equality and equity for Black, Latin, Asian and Indigenous Americans, share your skills. Reach out to the staff at:
- Idaho Black History Museum
- The Wassmuth Center for Human Rights
- Treasure Valley NAACP chapter
Offer to host an event to teach kids or students of all ages how to do what you do best. Whether it’s photography, writing, crafting, or something else you’re passionate about, providing free education to all is one of the best direct actions you can take to help the members of your Idaho community better.
As a White writer, I seek to remind as educated and anti-racist as possible. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any comments, advice, or feedback you would like to share.
Stay tuned for my full interview with Philip Thompson of the Idaho Black History Museum!