Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Ghana on the west coast of Africa, a country whose history is forever linked to the United States through, among other reasons, the Cape Coast Castle.
Originally built by slave traders in the mid-1600s, the Castle held captured Africans until their forced relocation to the Americas. As an African American, many intense feelings came over me touring the Castle, including motivation, sadness and a desire to persevere. An especially profound feeling was a connection to the legacy of the millions of enslaved Africans who caught the last glances of their homeland as they passed through the Castle’s “Door of No Return” and onto slavers’ ships. My connection to this legacy has motivated me as a person and an educator and is one reason why Juneteenth has a profound meaning for me.
As an educator from Princeville, North Carolina—the oldest town incorporated by Black people in the United States—I grew up understanding Juneteenth as a celebration of freedom, as well as a reminder that equality in America is still a work in progress. Despite my awareness of the barriers holding many Americans back, one of the greatest lessons from growing up in Princeville wasn’t of division, but that Americans have much more in common than not.