Juneteenth is a day for celebration and remembrance tied closely to the abolition of slavery in the United States. June 19, after all, marks the emancipation of slaves in the Confederate States in 1865 following the end of the Civil War.
While slavery still legally existed until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment on December 6 of the same year, Juneteenth still marks a pivotal point in the fight for freedom. It officially becoming a federal holiday in 2021 was therefore a recognition of the men, women and children who lived through and were freed from the institution of slavery.
In honor of the holiday, the New England Patriots teamed up with students from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School in Dorchester to produce a short video explaining what Juneteenth means to them:
“For me, it’s a celebration of unity,” said Patriots special teamer Justin Bethel. “All the slaves were unified in their freedom.”
Bethel went on to stress the importance of unity, both on a personal as well as a national level. This idea of Juneteenth bringing people together was also expressed by defensive back Myles Bryant.
“It becoming a federal holiday, I think is a step in the right direction,” the 24-year-old said. “I think it’s very important for everybody to get out there and celebrate; not only exclusive to Black people, but whether you’re Hispanic, White, Asian, whatever it may be, just go out there and celebrate it.”
While the Patriots organization itself has not released a statement on the holiday this year, it did so back in 2020 amid social unrest following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Two years later, the tone of that statement still rings true.
“We often say ‘We are all Patriots’ and with a team name like Patriots, it’s important we represent all patriots,” it read, in part.
“Black history IS American history. Our football team is predominantly comprised of Black men, who are people before they are players, and black lives must matter on and off the football field. We cannot simply ‘stick to football’ without acknowledging race and celebrating Juneteenth, the national commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States.”