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Democracy Now!

Clint Smith on Juneteenth and Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America

As President Biden signs legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday to mark the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned of their freedom more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, "Democracy now!" speaks to the writer and poet Clint Smith about Juneteenth and his new book, "How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America."

"When I think of Juneteenth, part of what I think about is the both-endedness of it," Smith says, "that it is this moment in which we mourn the fact that freedom was kept from hundreds of thousands of enslaved people for years and for months after it had been attained by them, and then, at the same time, celebrating the end of one of the most egregious things that this country has ever done." Smiths says he recognizes the federal holiday marking Juneteenth as a symbol, "but it is clearly not enough."

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