Juneteenth

So we’re coming up on June 19th, which is in the process of becoming a major holiday. It’s supposed to mark the day that slavery ended in the US…..

HOWEVER, they’ve got the date VERY wrong. June 19th, 1865, was when Union Army general Gordon Granger announced “General Order Number 3” – that as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation, slavery had ended in Texas – in the city of Galveston.

That’s a pretty darned limited thing. First of all, as we should all know, the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery. Secondly, it wasn’t until the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865, that chattel slavery was finally made illegal in the United States.

If they really wanted to mark the day slavery ended, the celebration would be in December – right in the middle of the holiday season. That’s not going to happen. And people started celebrating June 19th almost immediately afterwards, so there’s enough of a tradition behind it.

What should celebrations look like? People are undoubtedly going to read the Emancipation Proclamation (for the wrong reasons, as mentioned earlier). I’m guessing that it will eventually become a federal or at least a state holiday. Since it’s fixed to a specific calendar date, it will make holiday planning problematic – the day will keep moving around the week….

If I can be so bold as to offer a suggestion?

Black History Month allows us the chance to note and honor the contributions of Black Americans to our history. Martin Luther King Day gives us the chance to honor arguably the greatest civil rights leader our country has ever had (and remind us that we still have a long way to go). But what about the cultural contributions of African-Americans? Specifically Southern African-Americans?

St. Patrick’s Day has become a de facto Irish-American Day. Before he became persona non grata, Columbus Day was in effect an Italian-American Day. Thanks in large part to advertising, Cinco de Mayo (not Mexican Independence Day) has turned into Mexican-American Day. Could we do something similar with Juneteenth, and celebrate with soul food, delta blues, and old-school gospel?

(Cue the cries of “CULTURAL APPROPRIATION!!” in 3…. 2….. 1…..)

At any rate, we should let Black America take the lead with the celebrations. If we’re lucky, they’ll invite the rest of us to their party.

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