June 19, 2015

What is Juneteenth?

The discussion about the African American flag created by UNIA and Marcus Garvey reminded me of other dates on the calendar that impact African Americans differently than others in this country. For example, I wonder every year on the birthday of our nation ...why do Blacks celebrate July 4th?

It is historically accurate to recall that nothing about Independence Day back in 1776 brought a smile to the people of African descent living in America. White folks were ecstatic to overturn the yoke of the monarchy ... but, they weren't so ecstatic that they let go of the whips and chains used to enslave African Americans. Just a random thought floating thru the village today.

On the other hand, African Americans in most of the country do take time on Juneteenth to celebrate independence.

What is Juneteenth? Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the ending of slavery. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that all slaves were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863.

The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger's regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.

Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another, is that the news was deliberately withheld by the slave masters to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another, is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All or neither could be true. For whatever the reason, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.

Click here to learn more about Juneteenth if you have time/inclination. We encourage you to share information on this aspect of Ourstory as part of your Juneteenth 2011 celebration.

For now, I encourage you to share your comments on the significance of either June 19th or July 4th in your part of the diaspora? What say u?


Danielle said...

I was ignorant of Juneteenth, it is definitely a holiday that should be nationalized.
Regarding July 4th, I do see the truth in the historical irrelevance of America's independence to the slaves but still view the holiday as a celebration of American patriotism. This country was built by the sacrifices of both white and blacks unfortunately not all contributions have been honored equally and there lies the problem.
I do hope that we are at a point where there is ownership of the dream of true American democracy by all peoples that live within her borders.
It is high time that we take America back.

Be well and enjoy the day.

Foofa said...

Minneapolis (where I grew up) has a very large and awesome Juneteenth celebration. As part of the celebration they do simulations of running away from bondage, which I have ever been brave enough to do. I just don't think I could mentally handle it.

Eddie G. Griffin said...

There is still a lot of misunderstanding about Juneteenth Texas history. People forget the Civil War continued long after the Emanicipation, which took effect Jan. 1, 1863. On the eve before, black Union troops were occupying the city of Galveston; therefore, I believe some black people knew of the Emanicipation, but no freedom could be enjoyed until Texas surrendered (which occurred June 19, 1865). Many of the black troops of the 25th Corp that were involved in Lee's surrender at Appomattox were shipped to Texas to finish out the war. Many troops stayed until 1866 and by 1870 the Buffalo Soliders came in to occupy Texas and finish the war with the Indians. Reconstruction Texas was comprised of black and white Union troops, which was a sore spot for the former slaveholders that did not flee to Mexico. Also, Texas was part slave and part abolitionist prior to the War between the States, and many of the blacks in Texas were already free (born free) or declared free by the Mexican government in 1803 before Texas entered the Union.

JD said...

Juneteenth was a big celebration in Buffalo, New York when I lived there. Your comments on July 4th are important and one that black people should talk about, but let's not take away a time with family and friends filled with good food and drink. I would like to get your thoughts on my post on SOBCon 07, a blogging conference held in Chicago last weekend.

Unknown said...

Danielle - As Congresswoman Barbara Jordan once noted, "...through the process of amendment, interpretation and court decision, I [Black folks] have finally been included in 'We, the people.'" I think that it is safe to say that July 4th celebrations taking place in 2007 honor all American citizens. I trust that you are enjoying your day as well!

Natalie - You would be amazed at what you could handle if you had to do so. Check out a book called Kindred by Octavia Butler. I think you would enjoy it.

Eddie - Asante sana! You have added additional context with your post. Thank you very much.

James - Thank you for your comment. I'll be by to see your Chicago convention post shortly.

Francis Holland said...

The following has little if "anything to do with your topic, but it's on my heart and I want to share it with you:

The Washington Post says,

The contest for black support in South Carolina mirrors the national struggle Democratic candidates are waging to win black elected officials' support. Many have long-standing ties to the Clintons or Edwardses or others but are nonetheless tugged by racial solidarity with Obama and the excitement they see his campaign generating among their constituents. Moreover, Obama's early fundraising prowess has convinced observers that his campaign will be formidable to the end.

I'm not going to address Hillary v. Obama, because that's something everyone will decide for themselves. Here's my biggest gripe with that paragraph and with the whole article from which it's excerpted: the word "racial." The word race is a synonym for "species" and the Washington Post is saying that we will vote for Obama because he is the same species as us, just like dogs hang out in packs with other dogs because they are from the same species.

I'm not buying that. I'm not going to let anyone say that I am from any species other than the human species. Let's face it: There's no way we will ever win equality in America for so long as we concede that we are not even from the same species as whites. I don't think "separate but equal species" is our best argument for equality.

Let's face it: What we have in common with Barack Obama but that separates us from whites is not our "racial" species, but simply our skin color. Is that so hard to say and accept?

Of course whites like to exaggerate our difference so they can rationalize the exaggerated differences in the way we are treated. That's why the word "race," that appears no where else in the biological sciences, is applied to the difference in SKIN COLOR between Blacks and whites.

Now, someone will insist that the word "race" is essential to our efforts to gain equality and fight racism. That's like saying that the "N" word is essential to our efforts to fight against epithets! The word "race" is itself a badge and mark of inferiority and the word "racism" unless you accept that concept of "race."

I am never going to use the word "race" again without referring to it as "the disproved pseudo-scientific theory of race."
Nor will I use the word "racism," which is a word whose definition is premised upon the existence of the disproven pseudo-scientific concept of race.

Let's look at this linguistically and decode the word racism: Any argument about Marxism implicity accepts the fact that there was a man named "Marx," which is true. Any argument about "capitalism" implicity excepts as a premise the fact that "capital" exists, which is true. Likewise, any argument about "racism" - pro or con - is based on the premise that "race" exists, which is false. NO ONE anywhere can offer me even a half-baked argument that there is more than one species of human beings! Only "racists" believe in the color-animus motivated pseudo-scientific concept of "race." And so the literal meaning of the word "racist" has to be someone who believes in the concept of "race." To avoid being taken for a "racist," I'm not going to use the word "race" anymore, claiming or conceding to be from a different "race" from white people.

Just as black cats and spotted cats from the same family are all from one species - "cats," likewise, Black people and white people who all came from Africa originally, who interbreed, who have transfuseable blood, who organs can be transplanted one to the other, we are all from the same species. If the word race is superfluous in discussing differences between animal species, it is also superfluous in discussing differences between humans.

The word "race" serves only one purpose: to gloss over the fact that there is no evidence that we and whites are from different species and to gloss over the fact that we and whites MUST, by all evidence, be of the SAME species, that our only difference is skin-color.

So, what term will we use instead of "race"? How about simply "skin-color"? And what term will we use instead of "racism"? How about "skin-color aroused antagonistic behaviors of individuals, groups, organizations and societies." Yeah, it's a little longer than "racism" but has the advantage that it doesn't concede that we are, like dogs, being from a different species from whites.

If there is inherently, innately something more to the difference between Blacks and whites than skin-color, then what is that "something more"? "Inherently inferior intelligence?" "Inherently inferior values?" "Innately superior bongo playing?" "Genetically superior sexual drive and potency, but with less impulse control?" All of the possibilities are both unproven, improvable and absurd as a matter of science but also profoundly insulting to us as a people, and intentionally so. The word "race" (and every word derived from it)is inherently and irremediably an insult wherever and whenever it is used. Unless you can tell me what innate characteristics make us inherently different from whites, you have to admit that the concept of "race" adds nothing that the phrase "skin-color" of "phenotype" doesn't. All "race" add is baggage and highly negatively charged linguistic discrimination.

For so long as we agree that we are from a separate species from whites, we will never, ever convince them that we are from an equal species. As the Supreme Court said in 1954, "separate but equal" is an unconstitutional fallacy that simply never, ever works.

If someone asks me, "Are you equal to whites?" it does require more letters for me to write "yes," (3 letters) than it requires to write the word "no," (2 letters) but I think it's worth the extra effort, considering how important it is. Likewise, I think it's worth taking the extra time to write "skin-color" instead of "race," because "skin color" preserves our humanness and equality while using the words "race" (and logically therefore also "racism") negates our humanness and equality.

Unknown said...

Francis - With your permission I am going to copy your 'comment' about skin-color vs. race as it's own post here on the Electronic Village. I would like more villagers to have a chance to see what you've shared with us here. OK with you?

peace, Villager

Anonymous said...

Juneteenth is America's 2nd Independence Day celebration. 26 states recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday or state holiday observance, as well as the Congress of the United States.

Together we will see Juneteenth become a national holiday in Amemrica!

Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D.
National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign
National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF)
National Juneteenth Christian Leadership Council (NJCLC)

Unknown said...

Doc - I have followed your crusade to have Juneteenth recognized nationally and in all 50 states over the past few years. I'm appreciative that you found my blog. If you ever have information that you want shared with my blog readers ... just feel free to forward it to me and I will do so...

Janice said...

I am almost embarrased to say I did not know what Juneteenth was. I heard the word mentioned recently on the Tom Joyner Morning show, but did not hear what is was about. Thank you so much for educating this middle-aged, black female. I can't wait to share my new knowledge with my commrades!

Unknown said...

Janice - I'm glad that we can educate as well as motivate our villagers! I hope you have reason to come back and visit with us often. More importantly, I hope you share the 411 about Juneteenth with others...

That Girl Boo said...

excellent post Villager, as a child I never, and I do mean never learned of Junteenth in the public school system, although every year in Denver there was a big celebration (well big for Denver) I never remember seeing any printed information only people selling hot links and snow cones.
Oh well thank goodness for my parents who made sure we were properly educated.

Kevin Andre Elliott said...

That Girl Boo - You live/lived in Denver? I didn't know about Juneteenth until I moved there years ago.

Villager - Personally, I'm skeptical of all patriotic and nationalistic U.S. holidays. When I celebrate on 4 July, I'm more celebrating bbq and beer than anything else. I think I'd be more willing to accept holidays like 4 July if the U.S. were more willing to grant the same amount of reverence to days like 19 June.

Makes me wonder: 50 years-plus from now, will folks be fighting for recognition of Barack Obama's birthday or his Presidency as part of Presidents Day?

SjP said...

Oh my! Slap me right upside the head! I had planned to do a post on Juneteeth also - but both the day and my memory got completely away from me.

Much obliged Villager for bringing attention and speaking the truth about the day this very and real Day of Independence!


PurpleZoe said...

Peace Villager ^_^

Much Respect on your Juneteenth post.

Shine on

Quick said...

Our Juneteenth celebration is tomorrow!

Unknown said...

That Girl Boo - There are many aspects of OURstory that remain unknown. One of the benefits of our blogs is that we have a chance to share stories that may not otherwise be known to anyone.

Kevin - I respect your skepticism. Remember how many Black homes back in the day had a photo of Martin Luther King and a photo of Jesus someplace hanging on the wall. I suspect that Obama has opportunity to have his photo in as many Black homes as federal buildings if he lives up to his potential...

Sojourner, PZ and Quick - Asante sana for your encouraging words!

DOC said...

Juneteenth is America’s 2nd Independence Day celebration. Americans of African descent were trapped in the tyranny of enslavement on the country's first "4th of July", 1776, Independence Day. We honor our ancestors, Americans of African descent, who heard the news of freedom and celebrated with great joy and jubilation, on the "19th of June", Juneteenth, 1865.

It took over 88 years for the news of freedom to be announced in Southwest Texas, over two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Lincoln.

The National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign has worked diligently for several years to establish legislation in 29 states to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday or state holiday observance, the District of Columbia, as well as the Congress of the United States. This has been a great accomplishment for the "Modern Juneteenth Movement" in America, reaching far beyond the establishment of Juneteenth as a state holiday in the place were it all began, in Texas, first celebrated in 1980.

Together we will see Juneteenth become a National Holiday in America!

Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D.
National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign
National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF)
National Juneteenth Christian Leadership Council (NJCLC)

Unknown said...

DOC - Thank you very much for sharing this knowledge with us!

Durward Discussion said...

I popped on over to wish you a happy Juneteenth and to see if you would be celebrating thise weekend only to find that, as usual, you had laid out the whole history for everyone. Great article.

Unknown said...

Jamie - I appreciate your visit! I hope that more Americans recognize Juneteenth this year. I try to do my part here on this blog whenever I can...

peace, Villager