I have seen an explosion of background information on the celebration of Juneteenth today. I rejoice in that. If you are not familiar, the History Channel website has an excellent description.
Briefly—and ignorantly—June 19th became a day that slaves celebrated the Emancipation Proclamation. The original celebration occurred the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 (two and half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation)(and two months after General Lee surrendered and ended the Civil War).
I recently began reading Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery. He describes the day he and his mother and sibling learned of their emancipation in Virginia. The Union soldiers arrived, read the Emancipation Proclamation from the steps of the plantation great house, and left. They understood that they were free and they celebrated. However, they didn’t know where to go or what to do or how to get their next meal. Many of the freed slaves, having wandered the day enjoy their freedom, returned to the plantation, and negotiated a working relationship to stay on the plantation.
The people remembered the celebration and on June 19th, 1866 they gathered again to celebrate their emancipation. In 1979, the state of Texas recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday. Since then, a total of 47 states recognize Juneteenth.
June 19th was indeed a momentous day…except. The Emancipation Proclamation was riddled with exemptions. States that did not secede from the Union could still legalize slavery. Lincoln’s proclamation also included a provision that slaves were not emancipated until the Union army arrived to declare the slaves emancipated.
I have deliberately used the word “emancipate”. The people of color were not free on September 22, 1862 when President Lincoln signed the document. People of color were not free on January 1, 1863 when the proclamation took effect. People of color were not free on April 9, 1865 when the civil war ended. People of color were not free on June 19, 1865 when General Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas and read Lincoln’s proclamation publicly. People of color were not free on December 18th, 1865 when Congress ratified the Thirteenth Amendment.
People of color were not free under the Jim Crow Laws. People of color were not free in 1868 with the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment. People of color were not free in 1870 with the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment. People of color were not free under segregation. People of color were not free when President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The truth is people of color are still not free. White America has bound people of color systemically, theologically, politically, legally, educationally, financially, socially, geographically.
Call me an abolitionist. I am against slavery. I am against the enslavement of human beings against their choice, their knowledge, and especially because of the color of their skin. I want for all what I enjoy every day.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” — Martin Luther King Jr.
Dream on, Rev. Dr. We are still not there.
I love you.
I need you.
I hope for you.
Please be safe.