Camarillo, California (June 14, 2022)—The Juneteenth federal holiday celebrates the abolition of slavery in the United States, along with African American history and culture. President Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation into law on January 1, 1863 is central to the celebration as it declared enslaved people as free, but we should not forget how much the enslaved people did to free themselves.

That’s the theme of “Juneteenth: A Freedom Celebration,” a free public Zoom presentation scheduled for 1 p.m. on Tuesday, June 21, sponsored by the CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). University of Maryland Professor of History Richard Bell, Ph.D., an expert on slavery in America, will discuss Juneteenth and how the enslaved people had to fight for their own freedom before and after the Emancipation Proclamation.

“We associate Juneteenth with Abe Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, but to the confederacy, it was just a piece of paper,” Bell said. “They didn’t  recognize the paper or Lincoln as their president. Freedom had to be seized.”

Enslaved people fled to Union army camps or risked their lives to cross to the border to the north, and those efforts forced Lincoln to take much more aggressive steps to abolish slavery.

“Four-hundred thousand people ran away from slavery,” Bell said. “That’s 10% of the enslaved population. Others destroyed crops, broke tools, attacked their enslavers—anything they could think of to stop the Confederate war machine. It takes more than a man in office with a pen in his hand to destroy slavery.”

Bell became interested in American history while pursuing his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. He later earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University and is currently an Andrew Carnegie Fellow.

He recently authored a book on the reverse Underground Railroad called “Stolen,” about five boys kidnapped from the North and sold into slavery in the South. Bell has held research fellowships at more than two dozen libraries and institutes including residencies at the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Abolition, and Resistance at Yale University and the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress.

OLLI Director Daniel Banyai said the public presentation with a national expert is part of an ongoing effort by CSUCI to provide free seminars on areas of diversity. Other free public seminars have included a presentation on the ancient Chumash by Chumash elder and former veteran staff member Raudel Banuelos, who holds an honorary doctorate from CSUCI. OLLI also hosted a public seminar on Cinco de Mayo with CSUCI Professor of Spanish Stephen Clark, Ph.D.

“We will continue to do this. We want to do different topics such as one presentation centering on the LGBTQ community,” Banyai said. “We want to provide historical knowledge in general and we want to expand our OLLI program to be more inclusive of our diverse communities.”

OLLI also promotes diversity-themed events such as the Black History Month library series in February and are now promoting the Juneteenth Freedom Day celebration in Oxnard’s Plaza Park at 500 South C Street. The free family event will be Saturday, June 18 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will include events celebrating diversity and history as well as outreach booths, food, music, entertainment and health and wellness information.

To register for the virtual “Juneteenth: A Freedom Celebration” presentation at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, June 21, visit:  https://csuci.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMvdumgrzgjHdT95y08jTBZ7CH8sfY-PGa4

For more on the Juneteenth Freedom Day on Saturday, June 18 in Oxnard, visit: juneteenthoxnard.org

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