Editorial: All of Kansas City should celebrate Juneteenth


Celebrate Juneteenth this year with the Jackson County Republicans.

An unexpected pairing? Yes. But on Saturday, for the first time, celebrants who attend the annual event commemorating the emancipation of slaves will be able to visit a booth hosted by the county’s GOP.

“We just think that the message of liberty and freedom applies to everybody,” said Ralph Munyan, a member of the Jackson County Republican Committee who helped plan the group’s participation.

“We know that sometimes Republican candidates in the past have not given the inner city sufficient attention, and that made people feel like we didn’t care, but we do care,” Munyan said.

Follow the Republicans’ lead. The GOP sends an important message by participating and is wise to remember that the event is not geared to only one community.

Juneteenth is a free celebration from noon to 9 p.m. in the 18th & Vine historic district. Events have been held for several weeks. But Saturday is the finale, a day of art offerings, children’s face painting, pony rides, storytelling, events at the American Jazz Museum, a gospel jubilee and other musical performances.

To consider Juneteenth an exclusively African-American celebration is as dismissive as it is wrong. This event, along with many other historic commemorations, should be viewed as part of our shared American story, not as a narrow slice of black, Jewish, Asian or Latino history.

Juneteenth honors the day Texas slaves are said to have learned of the Emancipation Proclamation, more than 2  1/2 years after President Abraham Lincoln signed it in 1863. Multiple, conflicting versions of the same story explain how more than two years passed before Texas slaves were told they were free.

The event itself is steeped in folklore, as well as a basic misunderstanding about Lincoln’s intent behind the proclamation.

Lincoln’s move to sign the Emancipation Proclamation had more to do with his desire to preserve our young nation than to end slavery. He wanted to prevent England and France from entering the Civil War.

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery,” Lincoln said.

Eventually, a Missourian, U.S. Sen. John B. Henderson, would co-write and introduce the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery.

This weekend marks an opportunity to learn more about and reflect on these seminal events in our country’s history. And on Saturday, the entire community should join in the celebration of Juneteenth.

All are welcome.