June 19 is known as Juneteenth or Emancipation Day because slaves in Texas found out they were free on June 19, 1865. Slaves were ‘free’ after the Emancipation Proclamation was read on January 1, 1863, but in Texas they were in bondage for an additional 900+ days.
What lasting impact did being enslaved for an additional 900+ days have on their mental and physical health? How did that chronic stress impact their children? Clinical trials have demonstrated the lasting nefarious impact of stress on health outcomes in less time than that. As a grandchild of a Houston, Texas native, I’m amazed at the resiliency of those people and their descendants who went on to become business owners, teachers, medical doctors and so much more despite the delayed notice of freedom and the Jim Crow laws they endured for many years afterward.
On this day, take some time to remember the slaves who were in bondage for an additional 900+ days. Then take time to learn how chronic stress from the U.S. chattel slavery system still impacts African-Americans today. Let’s work to develop and promote innovative interventions that reduce the physical and mental health stressors that still impact us.
Lauren Parker, PhD, is an assistant scientist at the Center for Innovative Care in Aging and at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School for Public Health. She is trained in health promotion and gerontology, her research interest is in understanding how social factors influences the health of marginalized populations throughout their lives.