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Why Juneteenth is Worth Celebrating

Why Juneteenth is Worth Celebrating

Juneteenth is a testimony of how an imperfect nation bore the pain of death and division so that the right of liberty might expand its reach.

I first blogged about Juneteenth in 2015. As I noted then, the day’s significance is almost criminally underappreciated.

Over the last few years, the 19th of June and its significance, are slowly gaining national popularity, reverence, and acknowledgment.

Because there are only so many ways to recount historical events, my post from 2015:

Through the course of conversation, I found many of my freedom-loving friends had never heard of Juneteenth.

Being a native Texan living right up the road from Galveston, maybe I’ve taken for granted that the 19th of June has always been a day of significance and celebration. President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 two years into the Civil War, but the proclamation’s issuance didn’t trigger nationwide freedom for the enslaved.

While the Civil War came to a welcome end on June 2, 1865, it wasn’t until June 19th that the last slaves learned they were free. It was on Juneteenth that Union General Granger read “General Order No. 3” on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa.

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

The day has been celebrated ever since.

You can watch Part 2 and Part 3 by clicking the links.

President Trump issued the following message to commemorate Juneteenth:

Melania and I send our best wishes to those celebrating Juneteenth.

On this day in 1865, Major General Gordon Granger of the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas, to declare the end of the Civil War and issue a long-awaited order freeing the remaining slaves in Texas. Although President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation more than two years earlier, the freedom of most slaves depended on the advancement of the Union Army, which brought with it enforcement of the Proclamation. In Texas, General Granger’s order was a major step in our Nation’s effort to abolish slavery forever.

This historic moment would not have been possible without the courage and sacrifice of the nearly 200,000 former enslaved and free African Americans who fought for liberty alongside more than 2 million Union servicemen. These brave individuals fought to defend the God-given rights of those unjustly held in bondage.

As a Nation, we vow to never forget the millions of African Americans who suffered the evils of slavery. Together, we honor the unbreakable spirit and countless contributions of generations of African Americans to the story of American greatness. Today and every day, we recommit ourselves to defending the self-evident truth, boldly declared by our Founding Fathers, that all people are created equal.

Juneteenth is a testimony of how an imperfect nation bore the pain of death and division so that the right of liberty might expand its reach.

“But what a feeling can come over a man just from seeing the things he believes in and hopes for symbolized in the concrete form of a man. In something that gives a focus to all the other things he knows to be real. Something that makes unseen things manifest and allows him to come to his hopes and dreams through his outer eye and through the touch and feel of his natural hand.”

-From Ralph Ellison’s unfinished work, Juneteenth

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Comments

Along with my son’s birthday, and he is a native Texan too!

    Tom Servo in reply to sestamibi. | June 20, 2018 at 12:06 am

    Yes, I never knew how much attention it got in the rest of the country, but here in Texas it’s a pretty big thing!

I’m sorry, but legal slavery continued in the United States until December 18, 1865, it was not abolished in June of 1865.

“Legally, the last 40,000-45,000 slaves were freed in the last two slave states of Kentucky and Delaware[196] by the final ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution on December 18, 1865. Slaves still held in Tennessee, Kentucky, Kansas, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland, Missouri, Washington, D.C., and twelve parishes of Louisiana[197] also became legally free on this date.” – Wikipedia; Slavery In The United States.

Perhaps we should celebrate Decmberteenth, instead.

    Morning Sunshine in reply to Mac45. | June 19, 2018 at 9:35 pm

    Meh. We all know Jesus probably was not born on December 25. it is, however, a convenient date to celebrate that Important Date. June 19 was the day the slaves in Galveston found out about Emancipation, and they made a celebration of it every year. It is as good a date as any to celebrate freedom as any other.

      Morning Sunshine in reply to Morning Sunshine. | June 19, 2018 at 9:52 pm

      in fact, the date choice is addressed at the end of the second video in that it is a good date to celebrate freedom

      The point is, that Juneteenth is another ginned-up celebratory anniversary like Cinco de Mayo, which is not celebrated much of anywhere in Mexico except the town of Puebla de San Angeles. Celebrating Juneteenth, nationwide, is sort of like celebrating the Texican victory at San Jacinto Texas [San Jacinto Day] in Boston.

    Aarradin in reply to Mac45. | June 20, 2018 at 4:26 am

    Indeed!

    Most don’t even understand that the Emancipation Proclamation used, as its legal basis, the theory that slaves were property. It was merely an executive order directing the Union Army on how to dispose of “contraband” that happened to be human. Which is why, interestingly, the Emancipation Proclamation executive order was legal – because POTUS can’t use one (as Obama repeatedly did) to make new law, and certainly can’t use one (as Obama also did) to do things that current law specifically prohibits.

    It did NOT free Slaves in Union territory – it only freed those in Confederate territory that the Army gained control of.

    The 13th Amendment freed ALL slaves, permanently, and did not treat them as property.

    R’s, as a Party, are pathetic – they ought to be throwing major national celebrations annually for the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendment, as well as the 19th Amendment and the passage of the Civil Right’s Act – ALL of which were Republican achievements that had been fought for, for many years – decades in some cases.

      lee enfield in reply to Aarradin. | June 20, 2018 at 12:54 pm

      3…2…1…. waiting for a Lefty to show up to inform us deplorables that all the R’s and D’s did a magic switcheroo in the 60’s so that a Lincoln Republican is opposite of a Reagan/Trump republican.

and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

Well, that was the plan, until FDR came along.

    Milhouse in reply to tom_swift. | June 20, 2018 at 12:49 am

    FDR didn’t have that in mind; his welfare, like all his other policies, was designed to help white layabouts, not black ones. Black people called the NRA the “Negro Removal Act”, or “Negroes Robbed Again”.

Colonel Travis | June 19, 2018 at 11:44 pm

There’s a guy named Hari Jones, who’s curator of the African American Civil War Museum in DC. For many years he’s been saying Juneteenth is not being celebrated properly. He blames this on many including the (D) party for portraying this as whitey (my word not his) freeing the slaves, when it was the slaves who pushed the freedom themselves and were not bystanders. He does not like history as blacks being victims, helpless to do anything on their own.

Actually, he does not like the idea of Juneteenth becoming a national holiday, period. As he sees it, it is a “suppression of their own history” and by “their” he means every American, not just African-Americans. I would guess his biggest argument here is that the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free all slaves, and it is a valid argument. That’s not to say he does not want any celebrations, period. It’s just that he wants Americans to understand a fuller story, which, as a history buff, I wish could happen immediately to everyone but it never will.

There are times when I think he overstates his case in the grand scheme of things, but as far as his history knowledge, he is top notch. What I like most about him is his desire to go directly to the sources of information to get unfiltered POVs about those sources. He has gotten me to think about these events differently. Whether I agree with everything he has to say isn’t as important as that. I appreciate when someone challenges my brain, and this guy has done that.

Lot of videos on YT, I recommend that if you want to learn more about this to watch them.

    Milhouse in reply to Colonel Travis. | June 20, 2018 at 12:32 am

    He blames this on many including the (D) party for portraying this as whitey (my word not his) freeing the slaves, when it was the slaves who pushed the freedom themselves and were not bystanders. He does not like history as blacks being victims, helpless to do anything on their own.

    He may not like it, but wasn’t it the case? Is this not exactly what happened? In what way did the slaves free themselves? Were they not given their freedom by the US government, as as free gift?

      Colonel Travis in reply to Milhouse. | June 20, 2018 at 1:53 am

      His argument is not that they formally freed themselves. Of course they didn’t. What he does not like, and he is correct about this, is:

      1.) On June 19, 1865 in Galveston, yes, the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation was read out loud there. But the narrative that the EP freed the slaves is prevalent and misleading, so why are we celebrating something that didn’t do what the 13th Amendment did – and in this case, indirectly celebrating it?

      2.) The last battle of the Civil War was fought on the Rio Grande border. The Rio Grande at that time could handle shipping ferries – the Gulf area was of strategic importance to both sides. I live in Texas, not many people know the last battle of the Civil War was fought way out here, or the significance of the ports. If you ever get to Brownsville and love history, you need to visit the battlefield. Not much there but you can understand the war a little better from taking everything in firsthand. Palmito Ranch was a month after Appomattox, but Union and Confederate officers knew about Appomattox. This filtered into troops. The Union would have lost Palmito Ranch if it weren’t for Union black troops. Texas slaves were aware of those Union troops in Texas. The idea that African-Americans in Texas didn’t know about the EP until 2.5 years after it was signed is ludicrous. News from Washington was important in the Gulf region because of the war. You cannot suppress something as huge as the EP, it was in newspapers.

      3.) If you want to celebrate June 19, explain why that 1865 Galveston reading mattered in Texas. It wasn’t because of knowledge of the EP just got to town. It was because Texas surrendered to the Union on June 16, 1865. The June 19 celebration in Galveston was for that – especially since African-American troops were part of it.

      This is one way he means African-Americans were not just sitting around waiting for freedom. Like Jones, I cannot stand it when people botch history. I knew about the Texas side of things before Jones but I never thought – is Juneteenth being celebrated properly? The military side of things is never emphasized by anyone. I was also ignorant about the rest of his work on contributions by African-Americans during the Civil War.

    tom_swift in reply to Colonel Travis. | June 20, 2018 at 1:42 am

    … when it was the slaves who pushed the freedom themselves and were not bystanders.

    … but as far as his history knowledge, he is top notch.

    I note a certain … well, let’s just say “incompatibility” in these two statements.

    American history was not driven by any great slave revolts. It simply didn’t happen.

and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

If only this commitment had been consistently adhered to since then.

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