INDIANAPOLIS — While many Americans recognize July 4 as Independence Day, for Black Americans, it would be decades before they’d receive their freedom.
“If we don’t understand history, we are doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again," Charlene Fletcher said.
Flectcher is a historian, educator and writer.
She works for the Center for Africana Studies IUPUI and is the Curatorial Director at Conner Prairie Museum.
Her focus is on 19th century Black history.
Monday is Juneteenth — a day to commemorate the freedom of enslaved Black folks in America.
It’s celebrated on the anniversary of the order issued by Major General Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas.
“Union troops who were coming in and letting people know — this is over. What we don’t often hear about is the number, the scores actually of U.S. colored troops who were in Galveston. It’s Black people giving Black people the news," Fletcher said. “Hoosiers who are giving this word in 1865 and many of members of that regiment returned to Indiana and settled in Indianapolis, in a neighborhood we now know as Norwood and also right across the railroad tracks in Barrington.”
While the day is a celebration of freedom, she says Black Americans’ freedom is being challenged every day.
“These attempts around the country to erase or suppress Black history. It’s been presented under the term of Critical Race Theory...this idea that if we can’t sanitize Black history, we have to eliminate it completely," Fletcher said.
Fletcher says people may find it difficult to discuss the harsh realities of Black history.
This Juneteenth and throughout the year, she encourages others to lean into that shame or guilt.
“Having a true conversation about historical actors, historical facts, historical realities, enables us to be able to have conversations so that our young people can help make this a better space, as opposed to constantly back to the drawing board as we’ve done for the past 250 years," Fletcher said.
Fletcher is working on a book called Confined Femininity: Race, Gender, and Incarceration in Kentucky, 1865-1920 — which explores how Black women in prison challenged ideas of race and femininity.
You can learn more here.