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Juneteenth Mania

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Juneteenth is a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in Texas after the end of the War Between the States. For a long time it was a Texas only holiday, but for some reason over the past year or so it’s become a national cause celeb.

I’ll leave it to the readers to discuss the reasons for that, since I don’t care to speculate.

Just a bit of perspective then.

On September 22, 1862 President Lincoln (a Republican) signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It took effect on January 1, 1863 and freed all of the slaves in territory of the Confederate States of America. Why President Lincoln waited until two or so years after the start of the War Between the States, only he knew and he never said.

Here is the text,

That on the first day of January in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

None of this took effect in Texas until after the end of the war. General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston on June 19, 1865 to assert federal control over the former CSA state. One of his charges was to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas.

The general issued the following proclamation officially informing Texans that there would be no further slavery in the state.

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 holiday was celebrated “Jubilee Day” and celebrated as that for many years.

In 1938 Governor of Texas James V. Allred issued the following proclamation,

Whereas, the Negroes in the State of Texas observe June 19 as the official day for the celebration of Emancipation from slavery; and

Whereas, June 19, 1865, was the date when General Robert [sic] S. Granger, who had command of the Military District of Texas, issued a proclamation notifying the Negroes of Texas that they were free; and

Whereas, since that time, Texas Negroes have observed this day with suitable holiday ceremony, except during such years when the day comes on a Sunday; when the Governor of the State is asked to proclaim the following day as the holiday for State observance by Negroes; and

Whereas, June 19, 1938, this year falls on Sunday; NOW, THEREFORE, I, JAMES V. ALLRED, Governor of the State of Texas, do set aside and proclaim the day of June 20, 1938, as the date for observance of EMANCIPATION DAY in Texas, and do urge all members of the Negro race in Texas to observe the day in a manner appropriate to its importance to them.

Note that this was a Texas only holiday and a strict reading implies that it was a one year only holiday.

In 1970 Texas made it an official state holiday. Again, commemorating the end of slavery in TEXAS.

So, here’s the problem with it being a national holiday. Texas was over two years behind the rest of the nation in officially freeing it’s slaves. Actually, the slaves in Texas had been free since January 1, 1863, but Texas refused to comply until Union troops forced the issue.

It’s moot point of course because the mania has resulted in all 50 states and the federal government declaring June 19 as “Juneteenth.” Except that it appears to be one of those Monday holidays, not one celebrated on the actual date like US Independence Day on July 4.

A cynic, which I am not, might think that it’s just an excuse for politicians to signal their virtue and for some employees to get another paid day off. In some states the employees have the option of taking Friday or Monday off. Which surprised me on June 18th, when my trash lay outside all day uncollected.

If we as a nation were serious, we’d make September 22 “Emancipation Day” as that was the day the proclamation was signed by President Lincoln.

I suppose we could consider November 1, 1864 since that is the day that Maryland (a Union State) officially ended slavery in the state. Yes, Maryland despite being a union state, was also a slave holder state.

We could start another debate about the real causes of the War Between the States, but that’s a debate that will go on for another 100 years.

Texas should keep “Juneteenth” and the rest of us should celebrate “Emancipation Day.”

Oddly enough, I couldn’t find the etymology of the word “Juneteenth.” Who came up with that and why?

A final note on Wikipedia. It’s convenient, but not particularly accurate. Some of the articles are horribly slanted, so use a lot of caution when reading articles and using it as a source. You’ll note that I took a couple of quotes and dates, but not much of the rest from the articles there.

 

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After a long career as a field EMS provider, I'm now doing all that back office stuff I used to laugh at. Life is full of ironies, isn't it? I still live in the Northeast corner of the United States, although I hope to change that to another part of the country more in tune with my values and beliefs. I still write about EMS, but I'm adding more and more non EMS subject matter. Thanks for visiting.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I took Texas history in junior high and don’t recall “Juneteenth” being mentioned at all. Of course that was well before 1970…………..
    I still find it difficult to believe that no one in Texas knew about old honest abe ‘freeing’ the slaves (but just in the south and NOT the north) about 2 and a half years after the deed was done. To me that is the crux of the issue. But if the bureaucrats want to throw another bit of reparations out there, so be it.

    • You make some valid points. Certainly in the northeast we never learned about it or even heard about it. Then again, we didn’t learn about the struggle for Texas independence from Mexico unless we happened to watch “The Alamo” when it was on TV.

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