KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the first time, The United States will recognize Juneteenth as a federal holiday, and people in Kansas City are using the moment to learn more about the history of Black people in the country.
Juneteenth – short for June 19 – honors the end of slavery in the United States.
At the Black Archives of Mid-America, Alma Rollison taught her five grandchildren about the historical accomplishments Black Americans made in Kansas City.
“I just think it’s important that not only do they develop physically and mentally and socially, but they also know from whence they came from," Rollison said.
President Joe Biden signing into law Juneteenth as a federal holiday is one reason Rollison decided to bring her grandchildren to the museum to learn about their history.
Carmaletta Williams, executive director of the Black Archives of Mid-America, said Juneteenth and America's past with slavery deserve greater attention.
“We have to recognize, illuminate, discuss and educate folks so that they know the importance," Williams said. "This was America’s nightmare. Enslaving people and dehumanizing them is a very dark space in American history. So, to do this then gives us that impetus for people to understand what happened to come to grips with it. Then we can heal.”
Williams said Juneteenth highlights the perseverance of Black people and the accomplishments that followed years later.
“Even though our bodies may have been owned by somebody else, our spirits, our minds, our goals, our ambitions, our souls were not," she said. "So Black people continued to grow and to thrive."
Rollison said she hopes the education she is exposing her grandchildren to will be passed down to future generations.
“I just know that they’ll have that foundation," Rollison said. "Just like my parents did giving us verbal history of what transpired with them through their lives in the '30s, the '40s and the '50s. They’re going to be able to tell their kids what happened to them in 2021 and before."
Editor's note: A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Alma Rollison's last name. It has since been corrected.