I didn’t know Juneteenth was a thing until well into my adulthood. I don’t know the exact date I became aware of Juneteenth but I do remember thinking it was odd that we didn’t learn about this sort of thing when I was in school. It seems rather important. I know back in elementary school it was extremely important for me to know the history of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers back when dates were in the B.C. range, Marie Antionette did something, and of course George Washington was the first president. Oh! New York was one of the original 13 states. Modern-ish history was always raced through late in the year: there was one World War, then another, then a couple of other wars, and Jane Fonda did something, but now it’s time for your final exam. That’s pretty much how all my civics classes went. My school had an accelerated Social Studies program for sophomores and juniors; college bound students tended to skip World History I to take World History II and American Studies I as a sophomore and American Studies II and Ethics as a junior. I remember Regents students took American Studies while non-Regents students took American History. I don’t know why there was a delineation or what the difference in curriculum was. Maybe they learned about Juneteenth in American History. The accelerated program moved the New York State Regents Exam to January of my junior year, which helped balance exam loads in June, I guess. We didn’t even talk about Juneteenth in Ethics, even as we sat with our desks in circle and discussed the merits of various things in society. Gays? Some would counter not equal. Juneteenth? Never came up.
Over the years I’ve quipped that I came from a town that had no racial diversity. None. We didn’t even have a Chinese or Mexican restaurant until well after I graduated in 1986. Today I got to wondering if I was just not remembering things correctly so I went through all of my yearbooks, grade 8 to my senior year. Among all the smiling faces of classmates of various teenage years, there was one non-white face amongst the smiles two years behind me. Her name is Tammy and I vividly remember her with pleasant memories. She doesn’t appear after her eighth grade photo; I don’t know where she went to. She lived down the road from us in town with her mother, her older brother, and younger sister. I remember kids being mean to Tammy and in my obnoxiously present ignorance I could never figure out why they were being mean. She was nice, had a great laugh, but she could be as tough as nails when she needed to be. I liked that about her.
So out of approximately 1200 students, aside from the occasional AFS Exchange Students that would drop in once in a while, we had three non-white members of the student body. That’s 0.0025% of the student population.
Small wonder I don’t remember them discussing Juneteenth in what I sometimes jokingly call “snowy Alabama”.