Please note: No one can EVER own another human being.
Yes, I state the obvious. But archaic, nonsense phrases like “slave owner” still abound.
In this brief piece, I try to refrain from such fallacious descriptors when possible.
Today, we celebrate our newest national holiday today — Juneteenth!
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day word officially arrived in Texas that all slaves had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation.
That had happened two and half years earlier, of course. The delay in the announcement was due to the refusal of Southern states to accept the end of slavery as they were losing the Civil War.
The freedom proclamation was great news indeed— but not exactly the end of the matter. Good news usually travels fast, but this news did not, as shown by the two-year delay. Even then, many former slave “owners” refused to pass the news on, even telling the newly freed African-Americans that the “news” was a lie — they had not actually been freed and nothing was different than before. Other former slave holders told the newly freed African-Americans that they’d be treated exactly the same as before if they tried to run away — they would be hunted down with dogs and either dragged back in chains, or killed as an example. Returning Confederate soldiers, bitter in defeat, lynched many who dared to try and exercise their new freedoms.
As refreshing as the recognition of the holiday is, it is nowhere near enough, and like the news itself, unreasonably delayed beyond when it should have happened. Juneteenth marked the end of slavery but equality eludes us to this day. Our drive to whitewash the racism in our history does not serve any of us well. Even as we recognize this holiday, several states are trying to restrict educators from discussing the role of race in our history. Moving forward, we need to grow by understanding our past, not by imposing ignorance. We really all need to learn more about the dark shadows of our racial history in order to fully heal as a people.
So, I’m celebrating our first nationally recognized Freedom Day with a bit of quick, light research about the holiday — diverse sources like Wikipedia, for one viewpoint and the Zinn Education Project for a more critical viewpoint.
This and other aspects of our history involving our African-American brothers and sisters that — like the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 (Wikipedia, Zinn) — have been too long hidden, buried, or just overlooked.
I especially want to read more about the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” Opal Lee, who walked from Texas to Washington in 2016 to publicize the need for a national Juneteenth holiday.
She’s my new hero.
We can always use more heroes.