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Students honor Juneteenth by bringing awareness to Roseville community

Roseville Area Middle School students are creating signs to bring important history lessons out of the classroom and into local neighborhoods.

LITTLE CANADA, Minn. — Open a history book, and chances are you'll find the date Jan. 1, 1863. That's when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and declared that "all persons held as slaves shall be free."

Until recently, that history book might have failed to mention what many consider to be our country's second independence day. "Juneteenth is a celebration amongst African American communities where we celebrate the official end of slavery," explained Ayanna, one of the students at Roseville Area Middle School who's taking history out of the classroom and on the road. 

Students and teachers created lawn signs to bring awareness and honor to Juneteenth, June 19, 1865. That's when a Union general arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery.

RELATED: Hennepin County makes Juneteenth a paid holiday

For a long time, this chapter in our history was treated more like a footnote. But teachers like Silvia Vasquez are changing the conversation.

 "I think that it's giving them more pride, especially for our communities of color. It gives them that sense of 'we belong here.' Our history, the United States is part of us; we're part of the history as well."

Ayanna, one of Vasquez's students, is taking this lesson to heart and hopes others in the community do too. "I feel like people are becoming more aware of America's history and things that they should start to learn more about and how they should start to be more thoughtful about other cultures and their celebrations."

Vasquez also said the school is working on other projects, including revamping Constitution Day and Veterans Day to include everyone's voice in those lessons.