Vice President Kamala Harris missed a June 19 holiday history lesson on Monday, telling children that black people were enslaved in America for 400 years – exaggerating the actual period by more than 150 years.
“I think we all know that today is a day to celebrate the principle of freedom,” Harris told a group of about two dozen school-age children at the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington. “And think about it in terms of historical context, knowing that black people in America weren’t free during 400 years of slavery.”
“Let it be a day that is a day to celebrate the principle of freedom, but to speak about it honestly and accurately, both in the context of history and current application,” Harris continued during his seemingly off-the-cuff remarks.
The first African slaves from what would become the American colonies arrived in Virginia in 1619. Slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment, which was ratified in 1865 – ending 246 years of practice, not 400.
A White House official acknowledged Harris’ error, telling the Post that “the vice president was referring to 400 years since slavery began.”
Harris, the first vice president of partial African descent, also said Juneteenth, which became a federal holiday last year and has its roots in a celebration of Texas emancipation, is an opportunity to reflect on the nature of freedom.
“With the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War, America really had to ask who is free? How do we define freedom? The freedom in terms of autonomy that we should have? Is freedom given to us or are we born with freedom? Right?” said Harris.
“I would say it’s our divine right to have freedom. It’s your birthright to have freedom. And then during slavery freedom was taken. And so we’re not going to celebrate giving back to us what God gave us anyway, right?
“Amen!” said a member of his audience.
“We should also think about it in terms of current application, asking if everyone we know is free?” Harris continued. “Do we know anyone who is not free? Everywhere in the world, does everyone have freedom? Are there any who are without freedom? When we talk about freedom, are we talking about freedom from – or are we talking about freedom from?”