South has Something to Say: A reflection on the realities of Juneteenth in the South

As we commemorate yet another Juneteenth this month, I am reminded that we are still anything but free in the South. 

In the mecca of rich Black culture and the rise of Black perseverance, entrepreneurship, and innovation, Juneteenth’s legacy feels forgotten for many Southern states. 

Juneteenth, observed on June 19th, marks our country’s second independence day, celebrated by Black Americans nationwide. Also known as Emancipation Day or Juneteenth Independence Day, the holiday commemorates the end of slavery and the story of emancipation in the United States.

Juneteenth is a time to remember the leaders who paved the way before us in the journey to liberation and freedom. But what happens when the legacy of Juneteenth is forgotten in the South, the home of its birthplace?

Sadly, we see the hard work of Black community leaders, activists, and freedom fighters rejected from the same states who ignored the first call for true liberation.

Lawmakers in the South are finding every possible way to suppress Black voters. Georgia is experiencing constant voter suppression from bills like S.B. 189, one of the most impactful and controversial bills that impacts the voices of Black voters.

The bill requires unhoused voters to use the county registrar’s office as their mailing address, making it harder for them to practically receive mail. Other concerns of the impact of this law include: 

  • Adding additional burdens for county offices
  • Opening the door for even more mass voter challenges by expanding the criteria to sustain them
  • Tightening the timeline that election offices have to count absentee ballots
  • Adding new and unnecessary chain of custody procedures.

States like Georgia, Texas, Alabama, and Florida are not new to the fight to protect Black voting power in the South. With the drawing of unfair maps that diminish Black voting influence, communities are silenced into supporting candidates who don’t reflect their values. 

These maps have the power to determine which party controls the House and the Senate. So state officials pack districts and break up majority Black districts to take that power out of voters’ hands. Many state leaders often do the bare minimum to meet district requirements according to the Voting Rights Act, but their maps still diminish Black voter influence.

Decades of unfair maps with redrawn lines limit Black voters from making their voices heard by stifling their candidate choices. These kinds of ongoing legal battles over maps governing county seats like in Galveston, Texas – could set a harmful precedent of blocking voters from the ballot.


All across the South, Black communities raise concerns for more accountability and transparency of their elected officials but are ignored.

Georgia faces a cop-city crisis on their hands after years of outcry from the community to invest those city funds into resources that would help support residents, not harm them. “Pay-to-Play” contractors’ donations to city council members continue to promote gentrification, displacing Black community members, further delaying the liberation many of the ancestors fought so desperately to be able to one day celebrate.

Texas democracy groups continue to call out the unlimited campaign contributions made to politicians by wealthy special interest groups, which make big money donors more powerful than the people who will be impacted by their unjust policies.

We’re fighting the relics of enslavement, reconstruction, the Black Codes, Jim Crow, Peonage,  the Draft (not being able to opt-out), mass incarceration, continued voter suppression tactics, continuation of circumventing access to public education and healthcare, the resistance to dissent, and the struggle for bodily autonomy. 

Today, we’re dealing with the erasure of people recognizing Juneteenth, ironically in the same states that once upheld the confederacy. The same states that the Enslaved received delayed news of their liberation. The same states that continue to celebrate Confederacy Day. The same states that did not take money for the Affordable Care Act that would have helped communities that then lost local and rural hospitals and trauma centers while rates for heart disease, diabetes, and maternal mortality excessively increased. 

Black people and people of color continue to die in these Southern states and continue to fight to be respected as full citizens in the nation. The continued surveillance, political silencing, and criminalization echo the past that Juneteenth was supposed to release us from in the pursuit of freedom. In honor of Juneteenth’s legacy, we must continue to fight systems of silence and suppression and call out public officials to protect Black voices and power.