When Belmont alumna and security patrol officer Lauren Sheppard heard two of her coworkers talking about Juneteenth and asking what it meant and the history behind it, she immediately jumped in to explain the significance of the date. As a Texas native and black woman, Sheppard said the conversation incited something in her to want to share more information with the rest of the department.
Although Juneteenth is a big celebration in Texas, as it is was the first state to declare June 19 an official state holiday in 1980, Sheppard decided to do further research to design an informational poster to help educate those around her and in the Belmont community. Her poster explains facts about Juneteenth, including:
- Juneteenth references June 19, 1865, commemorating the date when all slaves in Texas were emancipated
- The Emancipation Proclamation had formally freed slaves almost two and a half years earlier, but enforcement of the proclamation had been slow and inconsistent
- It was not until December 6, 1865 that the 13th Amendment abolished slavery throughout the entire United States
- Celebrating looks like barbequing, dancing, storytelling and the singing of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”
- The day is also referred to as Freedom Day and Jubilee Day
Sheppard said she used design elements on the poster to really make the numbers stand out. “It was 900 days before the Texas slaves knew they were free. It was 89 years before July 4th even meant anything to a slave. I wanted the numbers to be large and in your face so you think about them. These people were free on paper, but they did not know that for over two years,” she explained. “I hoped that the numbers would be eye opening; I didn’t know the numbers even though Juneteenth is a part of my culture.”
Through her research, Sheppard said she learned many new things that other states use in their celebrations that she was unaware of, like the official Juneteenth flag and all that it symbolizes. She said she put Juneteenth in the center of the poster in a font that felt celebratory.
“I really just wanted other people to be educated on what Juneteenth is and hopefully create conversations around it,” Sheppard said. “At the end, I want people to care. That was something that really dug at me; I just want you to care about it. It’s not just my history; it’s our history as Americans.”