Retracing Our Steps from the Summer of Yesterday - Women’s Campaign Fund

We walk side by side toward the Summer of Tomorrow. As we move forward together, two events from the Summer of Yesterday light our way. They remind us how times of upheaval can take us to a world more fair and free.

Everything old is new again

June 19, 1865. In a brightly lit day on the cusp of summer, Union soldiers rode into Galveston, Texas. Their mission: to share the word that the Civil War was over, and more than 250,000 slaves on plantations in Texas were free.

It had been two and a half years since President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, outlawing slavery in states that had rebelled against the Union. It had been six months since Congress passed the 13th Amendment, declaring freedom for all who were enslaved. Old news for some states; new news for Texas.

“Now more than ever, we need to learn from our history and continue to form a more perfect union.” — Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.)

This day of freedom took on a name, “Juneteenth,” and was celebrated informally in the years that followed.

Fast-forward to today: Congress has passed a resolution to make Juneteenth a national holiday — awaiting presidential signoff to become law. “Now more than ever, we need to learn from our history and continue to form a more perfect union,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.)

Yet continuing acts of racial violence remind us how much we have left to do — and how many hands must come to the wheel to shape the fair world we seek.

The shot glass heard ‘round the world

A little over a century after the soldiers pulled into Galveston, freedom rang again. June 28, 1969. In the sultry darkness of New York City, eight police officers raided the Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village gay bar. The raids had happened time and again, but this time, the crowd fought back.

It started when Marsha P. Johnson threw a shot glass at a mirror and shouted, “I got my civil rights!” Patrons from neighboring bars joined the fight. Rioters broke windows. Cars were set ablaze. Hundreds resisted arrest. Thousands returned the next night to continue the protest through the next five days.

The Stonewall Riots ignited a series of demonstrations by members of the gay community that gave a growing LGBTQ+ movement worldwide visibility — and a unified voice.

Since Stonewall, the LGBTQ+ community has seen remarkable gains. Same-sex couples can legally marry. The Biden administration has embraced inclusivity, including the first openly gay cabinet official and the first openly transgender federal official. LGBTQ+ political representation has jumped 21 percent in a year’s time, ensuring more and more of our elected officials reflect our nation’s diversity.

Yet for all our collective progress, LGBTQ+ individuals in many states still lack fundamental protections. They are bullied and at high risk of harm. Some states are targeting transgender youth through discriminatory legislation.

The shot glass heard ‘round the world still has mirrors to shatter.

Free to be

In the Summer of Tomorrow, we learn our lessons from the Summer of Yesterday.

Juneteenth and Gay Pride celebrations remind us of our shared right to live equally and happily. When the parties are over, the work will continue. To heal our divisions. To push back on hatred and bigotry. To unite in our shared humanity — where all of us are seen, heard, and valued for the unique gifts we bring to the table.

©2021 Women’s Campaign Fund

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