Here’s 19 Black Culture Moments Our Ancestors Would Celebrate on Juneteenth

by Taylor Handberry Staggers

June 19, 2019

Photos by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images), John Bohn/Getty Images, Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The holiday Juneteenth commemorates the day, June 19, 1865, when the final enslaved African Americans were finally freed two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. To celebrate we’ve put together some of our favorite black culture moments that would surely put a smile on their faces.

1. Barack Obama Becomes The First African American President of The United States 

(Photo by Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images)

It’s been over 10 years since our Forever President’s first inauguration yet we still get chills thinking about this iconic moment. What a statement it was to have a descendant of slaves become the leader of the free world. The Obama presidency was magical as it gave a sense of joy and accomplishment to those who had lived and fought through the pains of this country’s ugly past all while sparking a fresh breath of hope and inspiration for generations to follow. #Forever44

2. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Gives Infamous “I Have A Dream” Speech

Bettmann / Contributor/Getty

Just two miles away from where Barack Obama would be installed into office, over 250,000 people gathered in 1963 to hear Dr. King speak of a nation where black people would no longer be judged by their skin and afforded the same opportunities as all Americans. This message of keeping the faith and having hope for a better tomorrow has been the backbone of the African American makeup.

3. Colin Kaepernick Decided To Kneel During The National Anthem

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

When asked why he chose to kneel Kaepernick responded, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football.”

4. Tommie Smith and John Carlos Salute Black Power at The 1968 Olympics During The National Anthem

(AFP/Getty Images)

You can’t mention Colin Kaepernick without mentioning this iconic moment of protest. Though black athletes and celebrities using their global platforms to bring attention to social issues can be controversial, these actions are something our ancestors did not always have the opportunity to do.

5. James Brown Sang: “I’m Black and I’m Proud”

Also in 1968, just a few month’s after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, The God Father of Soul released his revolutionary hit “Say It Loud.” This record brought a new wave of energy to a hurt people, inspiring African Americans to have confidence in their blackness and to continue the fight for equality.

6. N.W.A Said…Well, You Know

On the same socially conscious musician wave as James Brown, N*ggas With Attitude dropped this controversial record to unapologetically bring attention to racial profiling and the unjust treatment of black men at the hands of police. More than 20 years later, sadly, this 1988 track is still relevant today.

7. Miss America, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA Are All Black…For the First Time Ever

Pageants in America were created to showcase and highlight the ideal image of beauty and grace, for centuries this meant having white skin and silky hair. Well, not anymore as  Nia Franklin, Cheslie Kryst, and Kaliegh Garris prove that black has been, is and always will be beautiful! Yaaas for #BlackGirlMagic

8. Maya Angelou Pens Phenomenal Woman & Still I Rise

(Photo by John Bohn/Getty Images)

Through her words, this late poet was able to inspire and move individuals from all different walks of life. Her poem Phenomenal Woman has transcended races but remains a staple work within black feminism. Still I Rise continues to provide inspiration as the words “Bringing the gifts my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave” serve as a powerful reminder that African Americans are a strong, talented, and resilient people.

9. Ryan Coogler Gave Us The Historic ‘Black Panther’ 

(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Because what didn’t ‘Black Panther’ do for the culture? If you need a reminder you can read here and here. The only downside, Wakanda, unfortunately, is not a real place. But still, #WakandaForever

10. Hattie McDaniel Broke Tradition

(Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

Certainly, a trailblazer for the previous moment and many to follow, despite a strict “no blacks allowed” policy. Hattie McDaniel was permitted to attend the 1940 awards ceremony where she accepted the first-ever Academy Award given to an African American.

11. “Good Times” Aired

(Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

Family is one of the most important aspects within the black community, however, throughout history, media has had a hard time consistently showcasing this dynamic in a positive manner. “Good Times” was one of the first sitcoms that featured a black two-parent household. This series did not shy away from sharing the reality that many African American families were struggling to “keep their heads above water” both financially and socially. In addition to highlighting the trials of being black in America, this show was a reminder that with family and community, we will make it through.

12. Oprah Winfrey Becomes First African American to Have A Syndicated Talk Show

(Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)

Don’t call her Auntie, but this TV icon and philanthropist has gone on to become the first African American woman billionaire giving back to the culture every step of the way. Through her financial generosity, she has impacted millions of lives around the globe and through her career, she helped combat stereotypes being a refreshing example of a positive black female, paving the way for more to follow.

13. Billionaire Robert F. Smith Pledged To Rid The Student Debt of Over 400  Morehouse College Graduates

(Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

Speaking of wealthy black folk…let’s take a moment to reflect on the fact that at one point blacks weren’t allowed the opportunity of higher education or education #periodt. Fast forward to 2019 when one of the wealthiest African Americans in the world is helping graduates of the only all-male historically black college start a path towards generational wealth. Yeah, sit on that and read more here.

14. Beyoncé Paid Homage To The Black Panthers During Her Superbowl Halftime Show

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Despite their dedication to the black community with positive programs and initiatives, the Black Panther Party has been demonized throughout history and even labeled as a domestic terrorist group. In a bold move, Mrs. Carter used her platform on one of the world’s largest stages to bring attention and honor to this heroic group.

15. Beyoncé Becomes The First Black Woman To Headline Coachella…and Made It The Blackest Show Possible. 

(Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Coachella)

Uh, because we had to and Coachella, excuse us, Beychella shined a light on the greatness of HBCU bands and black Greek life, two groups that are often not taken seriously and misunderstood.

16. Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Becoming, Breaks Records

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Once again, let’s reflect. Slaves were not legally allowed to read nor write, and now our first black FLOTUS has authored the top selling autobiography…ever.

17. Rep. Maxine Waters Reclaimed Her Time

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

For centuries black women have been overlooked, and disrespected, however, in a congressional hearing, that would soon go viral, this top-ranking Democrat said not today. During a hearing when a white male counterpart refused to acknowledge her authority, the California congresswoman repeatedly stated the phrase “reclaiming my time” until the proper respect was given. This was a win for black women everywhere!

18. Formation Of The Black Lives Matter Movement

(Photo by Wolfram Kastl/Getty Images)

Eerily and dishearteningly similar to the Emmett Till case,  Trayvon Martin was murdered and his killer was acquitted. This tragedy led to the establishment of The Black Lives Matter Movement. We like to think our ancestors would be happy to see a movement that, despite criticism, refuses to let the world ignore the historic brutal and deadly attacks on black Americans.

19. The Opening of The National Museum of African American History and Culture 

(Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/Getty Images)

It’s a sad fact that a real and in-depth portrayal of African American history is hard to come by. Though there are hundreds of books and small gems throughout the world that highlight lesser-known facts and individuals, the 2016 opening of the NMAAHC in Washington, D.C is a beautiful culmination that tells this important story in a momentous and unprecedented way. From it’s iconic design to the museum’s thorough walk through time truly shows the impact and progression of black’s in this country, giving our ancestors the recognition and respect they deserve.

TELL US: What black iconic moments do you think would make our ancestors proud?

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