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Head of Northwest African American Museum talks Juneteenth and this moment in history

LaNesha DeBardelaben (far left), executive director of the Northwest African American Museum in Seattle, talks with attendees of Juneteenth events last year.
Courtesy of LaNesha DeBardelaben
LaNesha DeBardelaben (far left), executive director of the Northwest African American Museum in Seattle, talks with visitors at the museum.

It’s Juneteenth.

The holiday commemorates June 19, 1865, when a Union general reached Galveston, Texas, and freed the last remaining enslaved people in the Confederacy. That was more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and just about two months after the end of the Civil War.

Six museums around the country, including the Northwest African American Museum in Seattle, offered virtual celebrations.

“While the lesson of Juneteenth is rooted in the past, the events of our present day require of us to be attentive, aware, and active in our pursuit of freedom, liberty and justice truly for all,” said LaNesha DeBardelaben, executive director of the museum. “We hope that individuals will realize that history, as James Baldwin says, is never really about the past. History is present in all that we do.”

LaNesha DeBardelaben
LaNesha DeBardelaben

That includes the current movement to end systemic racism and the police killings of Black people.

DeBardelaben talked at length with KNKX about the history of Juneteenth, how we learn history in this country, and how all of it speaks to the present moment. Listen to the conversation through the audio player above.
There were local events online, too, hosted by the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, in partnership with Black Lives Matter Seattle King County and other local organizations. The videos featuring local Black leaders included cooking, yoga, DJ sessions and children’s programs. They’re still viewable online at the Juneteenth Week 2020 channel on YouTube.

You can learn more about today's national events at

Ed Ronco came to KNKX in October 2013 as producer and reporter for KNKX’s Morning Edition. Ed started in public radio in 2009 at KCAW in Sitka, Alaska, where he covered everything from city government, to education, crime, science, the arts and more. Prior to public radio, Ed worked in newspapers, including four years at the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune, where he covered business, then politics and government.