Editor's note: This story was first published on June 19, 2012.
By Leslie Gilbert Elman, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union Army announced to the assembled crowd at Ashton Villa in Galveston, Texas, "In accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free."
It was June 19, 1865.
Never mind that President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation had been written and read more than two years earlier. Juneteenth, named for the June 19 declaration, started as a celebration of emancipation day in Texas and eventually spread to other states. With celebrations dating back to 1866, Juneteenth now commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.
"America cannot understand its own history unless the African-American experience is embraced as a central factor in shaping who we are and what we have become as Americans," writes Lonnie G. Bunch, founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington.
Set to open in 2015, the museum will be the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African-American life, art and culture.
In honor of Juneteenth, the museum helped CNN.com choose six destinations that will enlighten and educate visitors about a complicated period of American history, the road to emancipation.
By Mariano Castillo, CNN
(CNN) - The grandson of civil rights activist Malcolm X, Malcolm Shabazz, died in a Mexico City hospital after suffering an apparent beating, police told CNN.
Prosecutors are investigating the death as a homicide, police spokesman Octavio Campos said.
Police were called to the scene of an injured man at 3:30 a.m. Thursday one block south of Plaza Garibaldi, a rough but famous patch of Mexico City known for its mariachis.
Shabazz appeared to have been beaten, but had no wounds from other weapons, Campos said.
The 29-year-old was transported to Mexico City's Balbuena General Hospital, where he died later Thursday morning because of his injuries, he said.
Editor's note: Cornell Belcher, a CNN contributor, was the Democratic National Committee's pollster under Chairman Howard Dean in 2005 and worked on the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns. Follow him on Twitter: @cornellbelcher.
By Cornell Belcher, CNN Contributor
(CNN) - "But if we know enough to be hung, we know enough to vote. If the Negro knows enough to pay taxes to support the government, he knows enough to vote; taxation and representation should go together. If he knows enough to shoulder a musket and fight for the flag, fight for the government, he knows enough to vote ... "
– Frederick Douglass ("What the Black Man Wants," 1865)
Yet another milestone of great American historical importance has come to pass with embarrassingly little tribute. And much like the election of President Barack Obama, many of us also thought we would never live to see this racial ceiling broken.
But unlike the election and re-election of the first black president, the media has paid remarkably little notice to news that might well have more impact on the political trajectory of this country over the next decade than the election of a single president.
According to a new Census Bureau report, "In 2012, blacks voted at a higher rate (66.2%) than non-Hispanic whites (64.1%) for the first time since the Census Bureau started publishing voting rates by the eligible citizenship population in 1996."
Now, given the innumerable battles to secure this most important right of democracy - from the blood-soaked battlefields of the Civil War to the halls of Congress and courts, to the strife-torn streets of the Civil Rights era - few things in our collective political history has borne so heavy a toll on our democracy as the enfranchisement of the African-American.
That the group for which so many hurdles have been thrown upon to block the vote has for the first time become the group most likely to vote is something like a big deal.
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – A new Census Bureau report shows a higher percentage of African-Americans than whites voted in a presidential election for the first time in history last year during the matchup between President Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
The report, released Wednesday, found that more than 66% of eligible blacks voted in the presidential contest. Only 64.1% of whites turned out to vote.
This marks the first time since 1968 that blacks turned out at a higher rate the whites.
In addition to blacks turning out at a higher rate, the number of Asian and Hispanic voters grew from 2008 to 2012. Hispanics added 1.4 million people and Asians added over 500,000. Between 1996 and 2012, blacks, Asians and Hispanics all saw their percentage of the voting population increase.
By Sheena McKenzie, CNN
(CNN) - History is against Kevin Krigger. A black jockey hasn't won America's most prestigious race - the Kentucky Derby - for over a century.
But in Krigger's mind, history has already been rewritten - we just don't know it yet.
"I know I'm going to win. Why? Because I'm riding Goldencents," he told CNN in his lilting Caribbean accent. "I couldn't be this confident on any other horse."
The bookmakers appear equally assured, placing Krigger as the second favorite to win the $2 million "Run for the Roses" - so called for its iconic blanket of ruby-coloured flowers draped over the winner.
Kentucky is the first race of the U.S. Triple Crown series - followed by the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
But for many, the Derby - run on Churchill Downs' historic dirt track - is also a fabulous festivity, capturing the public's imagination in a way few horse races can.
If Krigger's prediction is right, he'll be the first black jockey to win the premier race since Jimmy Winkfield took the trophy back-to-back in 1901 and 1902.
Today, look out across any U.S. race track and you'll likely see an ocean of white - and increasingly Latin American - jockeys at the helm.
But turn back the clock 150 years and African Americans ruled the field - when the Kentucky Derby first launched in 1875, 13 of the 15 jockeys were black.
Much like the NBA today, black athletes dominated horse racing for the next three decades, winning 15 of the first 28 Derbies.
Editor’s Note: Michael Lomax, Ph.D, is president and CEO of UNCF, the United Negro College Fund, the largest private provider of scholarships and other educational support to minority and low-income students. Previously, Lomax was president of Dillard University in New Orleans and a literature professor at Morehouse and Spelman colleges.
(CNN) - More than 35,000 students will graduate from college this year because of something that happened 159 years ago Monday.
It was on this day in 1854 that Ashmun Institute, the first college established solely for African-American students, was officially chartered.
Twelve years later, Ashmun was renamed as Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University and became the nation’s first degree-granting institution for African-Americans, or what we now know as a historically black college and university.
Where Lincoln led, others followed, and there are now 105 historically black colleges and universities, enrolling more than 370,000 students and awarding 20% of all undergraduate degrees earned by African-Americans.
“A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” the almost universally recognized motto of UNCF, the United Negro College Fund, has come to represent the aspirations of all historically black colleges and universities to ensure that all Americans can earn the college degrees they need and the 21st century economy demands.
UNCF makes those aspirations real for nearly 60,000 students each year by providing financial support for 38 private historically black colleges and universities and awarding 13,000 scholarships to students at 900 colleges and universities.
Like Lincoln University, these historically black colleges and universities began when African-Americans had few other higher education options. Much has changed since then. Today, a college education is not a “good-to-have” but a “must-have,” the basic requirement for almost every fast-growing and good-paying job and career path.
Today, African-Americans can attend almost all colleges and universities, but more than four times as many students choose historically black colleges and universities than 40 years ago. What’s the secret of their enduring success?
Historically black colleges and universities have endured and thrived because, just as in their early years, they are giving students the education they need and that we, as a community and as a nation, need them to have. FULL POST
By Joe Sterling, CNN
(CNN) - It's the biggest move of his career and it's off the court.
Jason Collins, who played with the NBA's Washington Wizards this season, has disclosed that he is gay, making him the first active openly homosexual athlete in the four major American pro team sports. The center, who is now a free agent, made the disclosure in a column appearing in the upcoming issue of Sports Illustrated.
"Jason Collins has forever changed the face of sports," said the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights group fighting for gay rights.
It likened the announcement to Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play in major league baseball in the modern era.
Wizards Center is NBA's first openly gay player
By Moni Basu, CNN
Cairo, Georgia (CNN) – Aniyah Peters wishes her white teachers would talk about Jackie Robinson as much as her black teachers do. After all, Aniyah, 13, goes to school in Cairo, the small southwest Georgia city where Robinson was born in 1919.
The man who broke modern-day baseball's color barrier could serve as inspiration for all children, Aniyah says. Just as he has inspired her.
This year, Aniyah came in second in a local essay contest on "How has the life of Jackie Robinson changed my life?"
"He showed the world that African-Americans can be just as good as Caucasians during the time of racial discrimination," Aniyah wrote. "Since I really love softball, he has shown me I can make it to the major leagues and become famous one day."
Aniyah has no shortage of ambition coursing through her veins. She wants to be a lawyer, an archaeologist and a fashion designer all at once.
She and her friends Destiny Tice, 14, and D.J. Donaldson, 14, hang out every day after school at the Grady County Boys and Girls Club, which was recently renamed to honor Robinson. On this warm afternoon, Aniyah says she is excited about going to see "42," the new Hollywood biopic about Robinson. Maybe over the weekend.
On the previous Friday, when the movie opened, the kids formed the number 42 on the baseball field and released red and blue balloons into the spring air. FULL POST
Editor's note: Benjamin Todd Jealous is president and CEO of the NAACP.
By Benjamin Todd Jealous, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Earlier this month Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) visited Howard University to take a swing at repairing relations between African Americans and the Republican Party.
As famed sportscaster Harry Kalas would have said, it was largely a swing and a miss.
Paul struck out when he tried to equate today's Republican Party with the party of Abraham Lincoln, while ignoring much of the 150 years in between. (He even acknowledged his mistakes shortly after). But his willingness to step up to the plate can provide a lesson for a GOP struggling to get on top.
Republicans will not win black votes by paying lip service to party history while attacking social programs and voting rights. But they can make inroads by showing a commitment to civil rights, something Paul managed to do briefly in his remarks.
Paul received applause when he told the Howard crowd, "We should not have drug laws or a court system that disproportionately punishes the black community." He illustrated using one issue where the GOP can connect with black voters: criminal justice reform.
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) - By the time Clarence Jones reached him, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was in bad shape.
He was unshaven, dirty and dejected. King had spent several days alone in solitary confinement with no mattress in a filthy dark jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama.
"Take this out of here," King whispered as he grabbed Jones' belt and stuffed bawled-up newspapers and toilet tissue down his pants.
Jones, King's lawyer, wondered if King was starting to lose it. He didn't pay attention to what King had given him - it was just a mish-mash of words and arrows scribbled on bits of paper.
"Not until five days later did I actually read a mimeographed copy of the letter," says Jones. "To be honest with you, I was more worried about bail money, not what he had written."
Millions of people have since read what Jones first ignored. As the nation commemorates the 50th anniversary of King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" on Tuesday, the document has become an American epistle. It's considered a classic defense of civil disobedience.
Were you at MLK's 'I Have a Dream' speech? Share your story
But those who see King's letter as just a tract on nonviolent resistance make the same mistake King's lawyer made: They miss what's special about something that's right in front of their eyes, some King scholars say.
The letter is one of the most intimate snapshots of a King most people don't know: An angry black man who once hated white people and, according to one scholar, was more dangerous than Malcolm X, a man King admired.
"Before everything else, (the letter) is a black man's cry of pain, anger and defiance," says Jonathan Rieder, author of the just-released "Gospel of Freedom," which looks at the "furious truth teller" revealed in King's classic letter.
King's blackness - his fierce racial pride, his distinctively black Christian faith and his belief that most whites were "unconscious racists" - is on full display in his letter, scholars say. The anger that drove King's letter would become more prominent in the speeches King gave until, literally, his last hours, Rieder says.
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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