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Juneteenth through the eyes of the Sacramento Observer, nation's top Black newspaper

How The Sacramento Observer newspaper is penning a legacy
How The Sacramento Observer newspaper is penning a legacy 04:16

SACRAMENTO — Some may not know that the nation's best Black newspaper was founded in Sacramento in 1962.

For decades, The Sacramento Observer has been sharing stories and digging deeper into issues impacting the African American community. It's a generational journey passed down to The Observer's current publisher, Larry Lee, who took the reins from his father who founded the paper alongside Gino Gladden and John W. Cole at the height of the civil rights movement.

"The history of the Black press stands on the credo of 'No one else will speak for us. We want to plead our own cause,'" Lee said. "The paper started at a time when the Sacramento Bee, local news stations, they didn't really do stories about our community unless it was something sensational."

Taking their lead from other major Black publications in the '60s, The Observer began a legacy and reputation that still stands today. Lee said holidays like Juneteenth are a great opportunity to reach beyond the Black community and educate people about the importance of the date June 19, 1865.

"African Americans need to be seen and recognized for our contributions, and the emancipation of slavery, for us, is a time of celebration," Lee said.

The date marks the day the last enslaved African Americans learned they were free despite that news taking over two years to reach Galveston, Texas. Word that Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation took time to reach the Deep South and, decades later, gave the day significance to the nation.

Juneteenth became recognized as a national holiday in 2021 as a time of remembrance and education.

"We're talking about people who are robbed of their land and robbed of their legacy, their culture," Lee said.

Lee added that Juneteenth is also a way to ensure healing for the entire nation—not just the Black community.

"The healing and the reparations of the relationship between African Americans and this country related to slavery is not for our benefit. It's really for others' benefit. It's for their ability to be able to say we have addressed this as a nation," Lee said.

For Angelica Obioha, managing editor of The Observer, it's about sharing stories about the Black experience in all forms.

"When you see it on a larger scale, it's because the issue has gotten too bad, or when you see our people get recognized, it's because we've gotten that good," Obioha said. "The Black experience is larger than the trauma, the issues or just being disenfranchised. There's joy. There's all the ways that we exist. It's culture. It's a way of life."

Over the years, the way The Observer shares those stories has changed and evolved from just print publications to online platforms.

"It's such a priceless and beautiful thing to be there as those things grow, as they morph, as they change and to provide that context and insight in a thoughtful and intentional way," Obioha said. "There's so many components and layers to that."

As for Lee, he said that all these years later, his dad would be proud of the push their journalism has made into shaping a better Sacramento.

"He would be very proud of seeing honest conversations that are happening in communities and places and spaces that they weren't happening before," Lee said.

The Sacramento Observer publishes daily on their website. 

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