On June 19, 1865 — 156 years ago — slaves in Galveston, Texas received word that the Civil War had ended and they were free. Though the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, that news took more than two years to reach Texas.
Thus, June 19, 1865, is a constant reminder for African Americans of how freedom and justice in the United States have been delayed. Even after Gen. Gordon Granger marched into Galveston, some slave masters withheld the information from their slaves in order to use them to harvest more crops illegally.
Slavery left a trauma behind that penetrated every aspect of American life from housing, wealth, and family life to even educational opportunities. St. Philip’s College, like other historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), came into existence to give Black Americans a chance at higher education.
But the disparities in access continue due to the rising costs of post-secondary education. The San Antonio Chapter of The Links Incorporated tries to address the funding gap and recently awarded 11 outstanding students with scholarships to help them realize their next milestones and ease the burden of college debt. Those worthy recipients include:
- Keith Baker (John Jay Science and Engineering Academy), who will attend Northeastern University;
- Dominique Battles (East Central High School), who will attend the University of Texas at Austin;
- Brittney Carson (James Madison High School), who will attend St. Philip’s College;
- Imani Evans (Tom C. Clark High School) who is considering both Spelman College and Baylor University;
- Corinthian Ewesuedo (Keystone School), who will attend Case Western Reserve University;
- Jasmine E. Forbes (Byron P. Steele II High School), who will attend Spelman College;
- Chyna Smith (St Philip’s College Early College High School), who will attend Prairie View A&M University;
- Kailynn Williams (Communication Arts High School), who will attend Xavier University;
- Joy Williams (Sam Houston High School), who will attend Texas Southern University; Regan Wilson (Claudia Taylor Johnson High School), who will attend Florida A&M University;
- and Melvin Wrightsil (Sam Houston High School), who will attend Vanderbilt University.
The San Antonio Chapter of the Links has been awarding scholarships to students for several decades and celebrated its 60th anniversary serving San Antonio in 2020. It is part of a legacy of helping the next generation that includes mentoring, presenting educational health and cultural programs, and giving funds to other organizations that assist with food insecurity, homelessness, and providing resources to people in need.
It was only this year (just a few days before this article was published) that President Joe Biden signed legislation establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced that most federal employees will observe the holiday on June 18 since Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year.
We pay homage to June 19, because it’s important the local community understands the significance of this date. If we hope that our children are better than us, we must teach them not to repeat our past mistakes. We must invest in them. Slavery built wealth for many families but shattered generations of so many other people.
Even after 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation couldn’t erase the racism and hatred that made slavery exist. We see this today through acts that are meant to dominate and subdue people of color rather than uplift and motivate. When a Black-owned business is refused capital, COVID-19 vaccines are not available in lower-income areas, the prison system is mostly filled with people of color, or an instructor assumes a student will perform badly in their class because they are Black, these are all acts meant to subdue or dominate.
Juneteenth is a day that was a symbolic end to captivity. But 400 years since the start of slavery in America, we still have much work to do to free our minds and create equitable opportunities for all. Our work continues with our children who want to be better.
To learn more about the San Antonio Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, visit us at www.sanantoniolinks.org.