Sunday, June 19, 2011

Juneteenth: Thank God Almighty … Free at Last

A show of unity with the U.S. flag and the Juneteenth flag.

THE world has the great state of Texas to thank for any number of events, commendable and dubious.

In the former category is Juneteenth aka Freedom Day and Emancipation Day, which was spawned by something in the latter category.

These days commemorate 19 June 1865 when Union soldiers gained control of and imposed order and secured the freedom of the slaves in the Lonestar State. Heretofore, Confederate soldiers were holding down the joint, interfering with the freedom of the slaves nominally covered under the Emancipation Proclamation, amongst other offenses.

Old Abe had signed his executive order way back on 1 Jan. 1863, but Texas was … how to put it … recalcitrant. Freed slaves in other states could not really celebrate until their Texas brethren were emancipated, too. Of course the complete abolition of slavery was not official until the dawn of the Thirteenth Amendment. It took effect in December 1865.

All these years later, many states in the USA count Juneteenth as a holiday. And lest anyone is confused or disinterested, it is a day that all Americans should celebrate, for if one of us is in bondage we are all in bondage, no?

One could go on and on about why Juneteenth deserves a celebration, but Dr. Charles Taylor, down to a letter, makes the case rather poignantly. (

An image from the "Emancipation Day Celebration Photo Exhibit" at the George Washington Carver Branch Library in Austin, Texas. Photo from Austin History Center.

J – Juneteenth represents the joy of freedom – the chance for a new beginning.
U – Unless we expose the truth about the African-American slave experience, Americans won't be truly free.
N – Never must we forget our ancestors' endurance of one of the worst slave experiences in human history.
E – Every American has benefitted from the wealth blacks created through more than 200 years of free labor and Juneteenth allows us to acknowledge that debt.
T – To encourage every former slave-holding state to follow Texas' (and Oklahoma's) example and make Juneteenth a state holiday.
E – Everyday in America, blacks are reminded of the legacy of slavery. Juneteenth counters that by reminding us of the promise of deliverance.
E – Even on the journey to discover who we are, Juneteenth allows us to reflect on where we've been, where we're at and where we're going as a people.
N – Never give up hope is the legacy our enslaved ancestors left. It was this legacy that produced black heroism in the Civil War and helped launch the modern civil rights era. It is this legacy we celebrate.
T – To proclaim for all the world to hear, that human rights must never again become subservient to property rights.
H – History books have only told a small part of the story; Juneteenth gives us a chance to set the record straight.

Visit the links below to learn about Juneteenth celebrations around the country:

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