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New Perspective: My History, My Juneteenth Story

June 28, 2022

Last month, I had the opportunity to return to my maternal ancestral home Thomasville, Georgia, a small town located about 40 minutes outside of Tallahassee, Florida. Thomasville is frequented by college students seeking a day trip and those looking for quaint, southern charm and hospitality.

I visited Thomasville years before as a child, and then again as one of those same college students wanting a change of scenery. I knew that Thomasville was once the home of my grandparents, but on my most recent trip, I had a new awareness of my family history. I learned that in the 1800s, my great-great grandfather Alf Ross was born a slave in Thomasville at a place called Springhill Plantation.

This latest visit to Thomasville was fueled by my hunger for more perspective on my family history. I had the opportunity to visit the Jack Hadley Black History Museum, a small but impactful institution filled with rich artifacts from Black American history. There, I spent time with my parents, aunts,  and uncles soaking in the history of Black people in Thomasville and the plight of my ancestors. I was surprised to see that I even showed up in a picture or two alongside my grandmother.

During the insightful visit, I was able to confirm what I had always known. My great-great grandfather was born a slave on Springhill Plantation and after emancipation, his descendants worked on the plantation as sharecroppers. The next generations decided to leave rural Georgia in pursuit of a better life. My grandfather, Edward Ross, moved to Miami, Florida where my mother was born and where I reside today.

Having this new-found knowledge of my familial history puts Juneteenth into a whole new light for me. I, along with other Black Americans, see Juneteenth as a time to reflect and pay tribute to our enslaved ancestors. It’s a time to mourn their struggle, but also to celebrate their resilience and indomitable spirits.

When Juneteenth was designated a federal holiday last year, a day that was relatively unknown to non-Black Americans had suddenly become an opportunity to market to Black people. Juneteenth should be celebrated and recognized by all. Afterall, Black history is American History.

As we move past Juneteenth, we hope that you reflect on the holiday’s true meaning and use the momentum of the holiday as a reminder to live up to the values of and build the inclusive society we all desire to live in.