June 19, 1865. Juneteenth! The day news of the end of slavery made it to Texas.
Let’s back up for a minute first and look at what happened before this.
President Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862 in the midst of the Civil War. He said if the rebels did not end the fighting and rejoin the Union by January 1, 1863, all slaves in the rebellious states would be free. One hundred days later on January 1, 1863, the final Emancipation Proclamation was issued, declaring slaves “then, thenceforward, and forever free.”
This didn’t end slavery, but it did change the basic character of the Civil War. Instead of the war being fought to restore the old Union as it was before 1861, the North was now fighting to create a new Union without slavery.
Basically, it was a political move on Lincoln’s part.
The reality of this, though, was that the emancipation was hard to enforce, and likely not enforced, in areas where the Union wasn’t present. That’s right: the South. Texas was a state in particular that was isolated from Union troops and many slave owners moved there with their slaves. By the end of the Civil War, the number of slaves in Texas had increased by tens of thousands.
Coincidence that it was the last state where slaves knew about their freedom? Not at all. *eye roll*
Important to remember, too: The Thirteenth Amendment—which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime—was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, by the House on January 31, 1865, and was ratified on December 6, 1865. (If you haven’t watched the Ava DuVernay’s documentary “13th” which looks at race and mass incarceration, you really should.)
On June 19, 1865, General Order No. 3 was issued in Texas. It stated:
“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.”
Of course slavery didn’t end overnight, but it was the beginning of freedom for black men, women, and children.
Juneteenth was monumental. It doesn’t seem like that in the history books because, well, it isn’t there. It needs to be there though because it will also require a more in depth look at the truths of slavery. I’m glad that more and more people in our country are recognizing it, though. As a matter of fact, today here in North Carolina, Governor Roy Cooper officially recognized “Juneteenth Day.”
But Juneteenth is more than just a day. I have quite a bit in my head right now that I just need to type out, so bear with me.
Let me start by saying that Juneteenth makes me thing of black excellence, resilience, hope, strength, courage, dignity, beauty, faith, and perseverance that can’t be unmatched! Today I really sat here and just thought about how much WE have overcome, and all of the black girl magic and black boy joy that
Also important to remember though..
Juneteenth was followed by decadesof lynching, segregation, imprisonment, Jim Crow, and terrors that black people faced. I mean, a country that said we were free purposely continued to build a system that made sure we were not. More people need to understand this for what it is if any sort of actual progress intends to be made in this country.
“Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won; you earn it and in it in every generation.” Coretta Scott King said those words and she was so right.
Today, we are free-ish. That’s the reality.
This is why Juneteenth is so important. Mass incarceration, police brutality, racial profiling, and other barriers continue to remain in America.
I’ve seen people liking and sharing statuses about Juneteenth today, but I want you all to keep that same energy.
Keep that same energy and say, “black lives matter.” Donate to black organizations and activists who are out here doing the hard work. Discuss mass incarceration and prison reform. Show up to city council meetings and speak up about black communities who are not being treated fairly. Call out your white friends when you know good and well that they just said something racist. Reflect on how you have perpetrated racism and how you have been complacent. I mean, really be about freedom for black people.
Don’t half do it.
Let’s also really talk about reparations because that needs to happen in my lifetime. Jemar Tisby said it well: “While people often say slavery was America’s original sin, it might be more accurate to say that slavery was America’s original “symptom.” Its original sin was greed.” Jemar went on to say that the economic exploitation through the bondage of people of African descent is why we simply cannot have a serious conversation about racial justice if we don’t talk about money.
He. Is. Right. There are too many people out here trying to tell us that we don’t deserve any compensation for an entire enslavement of our whole race. Really though? We worked for FREE while enduring intense physical, mental, and emotional turmoil, all for America to profit and become rich at our expense. Give us our coins.
Also, soul food that America loves so much wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for us. Your white grandma didn’t learn how to make all that good food on her own. You’re welcome. (I stepped on some toes with that one didn’t I? Good.)
If a national Juneteenth holiday existed in the future, it would actually be something that could make room for change. But before that, people would have to really work on themselves and come to terms with the reality of American history. This is where dialogue becomes important and people actually choosing to not remain ignorant to facts and past and present issues in our country.
You know what, y’all? America has never really acknowledged the centuries of slavery and the fact that this country was built on the exploitation of black bodies. It never has. America has never really acknowledged its many hypocrisies. America has never really acknowledged the generational trauma experienced by black people. America has never acknowledged what has always held it up: greed and racism
It’s time that these are acknowledged.
We can’t continue to overlook where the wound was made. That’s not how healing happens.
I’m happy that I saw “Happy Juneteenth” all over social media today. I really am. I am proud to be a black woman and when I think about my ancestors, I think about the God-given, insurmountable resilience that led to me.
I just want there to be more. More action. More intentionality. More recognition of what black people went through and are STILL going through. I want all of that and more.
In the words of Assata Shakur, “We have nothing to lose but our chains.”