Juneteenth and a Dream Deferred

young woman on a Juneteenth float in TexasLargely unknown to the overall U.S. population, Juneteenth is the most popular annual celebration of emancipation from slavery in the United States and celebrated each year on June 19th throughout the country.

June 19, 1865, is the date that Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger established the Union Army’s authority over the territory of Texas. It was the date also when he issued an order that freed the 250,000 enslaved men, women and children in what would become the Lone Star State.

The enslaved people learned from Granger’s announcement that they were liberated, and their relationship with their masters at that point and moving forward was as “employer and hired laborer.” The order was issued a full two-and-a-half-years after the Emancipation Proclamation had taken effect on January 1, 1863, after being signed by President Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1862.

These dates are not only conflicting, but they tell the story of our country’s deep relationship with the institution of slavery, the fractured relationship of the states to the federal government – which seems to have reemerged today – and the power of narrative where the official record is the one told by the winners and not the “losers.”

However, this has never stopped the marginalized from challenging official narratives.

Juneteenth Today

As I reflect on the meaning of Juneteenth, I consider our ancestors and celebrate when the last formally enslaved African Americans were freed and considered citizens (Americans) by federal law. However, as I think about how far we’ve come as a demographic group, as a community and as a country, I clearly see the continued racial and economic inequality perpetrated in the United States.

an illustration of Lincoln with the words prison=slavery

The National Urban League’s report Locked Out: Education, Jobs and Justice makes it clear that we are not in a post-racial society and that African Americans (and those identified as being of African descent) are at a disadvantage in this country. There seems to be a collective process of intentional “un-remembering” at play in our social consciousness, for non-Blacks and even some Blacks – with media of all types contributing to a distortion of the the facts (that are indeed out there if one did the research on their own).

Too often opinions become facts. And the real facts are buried by those who have the power and privilege to bury them to absolve themselves of accountability, guilt or a century’s worth of grief.

Slavery by Another Name

I argue that the call to consider the master-slave relationship as one of “employer-laborer” in Galveston in 1865 became less of a metaphor immediately following the Reconstruction era. Slavery by Another Name is illustrative of how real the comparison became. A good example is that of the prison-industrial-complex at all levels (county/city, state, federal) which can be considered modern day slavery – for the poor and, disproportionately, for the Black and Brown.

We must deal with the complex language, complex history and complex feelings that are brought up in discussing the intersectionality of race and class, which is tied inextricably to the country’s economic dependence on slave labor. Only then will we be able to come to terms with the past, and the vestiges of the institution of slavery that still exist today.

3 Responses

  1. Ronald Myers

    Congratulations Juneteenth America 2016 on a record number of Juneteenth Celebrations with millions in attendance across the country and around the world!

    Juneteenth Flag Raising Ceremonies, honoring our Black Veterans, especially the 186,000 colored troops who fought and died for freedom during the Civil War, graced communities across the nation

    Even after the 151st annual celebration of Juneteenth, President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump did not personally acknowledge the significance of America’s second Independence day or express support for the establishment of Juneteenth as a National Day of Observance.

    Did anyone see Juneteenth mentioned on CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, etc?

    Why not?

    Congress recognizes the “19th of June” as Juneteenth Independence Day in America (www.NationalJuneteenth.com/Senate.html).

    As the leader of the “Modern Juneteenth Movement” (www.NationalJuneteenth.com/Juneteenth_Movement.html) in America, I need your support to fight for the national recognition of America’s second Independence Day.

    Circulate and sign petitions to President Obama and the USPS (www.NationalJuneteenth.com/petition.html), contact your two U.S. Senators and Congressman to sponsor and support legislation to send to President Obama to sign to make Juneteenth a National Day of Observance, become a member of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF) (www.NationalJuneteenth.com/Membership.html) and make a DONATION to the cause (www.NationalJuneteenth.com/Donate.html).

    Your DONATIONS will help us with the production of radio and television ads in support of the Campaign to Establish Juneteenth as a National Day of Observance in America.


    1. Nicole

      Thanks for replying Ronald, you make a great point. There is little mention of Juneteenth in the mainstream and I honestly only learned of it in my adulthood which may be a result of where I lived (in the Northeast) and the makeup of my community. This celebration is important and one that everyone, not just members of the African diaspora, should known and understand the importance of it’s history. Thanks so much for letting me know about the efforts to make it a holiday!

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