Understanding the Holiday Juneteenth

Courtesy of Phil Murphy (Flickr CC0)

Slavery in the Americas began in August of 1619 when 20 African men arrived at Point Comfort, Virginia. Slavery remained legal until President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. However, freedom for many enslaved men, women, and children did not become a reality until after the end of the Civil War in 1865.

Although several governors in red states are attempting to remove the facts about slavery in America, it is embedded in every aspect of our nation’s past.

Many of our founding fathers were slave owners, including our first and third presidents, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. A total of 12 American presidents were slave owners, the last being Ulysses Grant. His wife had four slaves while her husband was fighting the Civil War.

Today is “Juneteenth.” Black Americans recognize this day as the actual end of slavery in America.

On June 19, 1865, about 2,000 Union soldiers arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas. Their leader announced that all 250,000 slaves in the state of Texas were now freemen by executive decree. The men, women, and children freed on that day began celebrating “Juneteenth” as the official day when slavery no longer existed in America. Most Americans proudly celebrate this day with our brothers and sisters whose struggle continues today.

Sadly, although there are no Black slaves in America today, efforts by white supremacists continue to remove freedom from Black Americans.

Voter suppression efforts are currently the law in at least 12 states. They are focused on mostly poor, black communities. Republicans are removing many polling places, and requiring voter ID in forms that are unnecessary, and difficult to obtain.

Courtesy of Virginia Guard Public Affairs (Flickr CC0)

In Washington, all Republicans and two faux Democrats voted against the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. In Georgia, where lines are often long, it is now forbidden to offer bottled water to those waiting to cast their votes. In Georgia and other states, early voting on Sundays has been canceled. Many black churches drive worshipers in need of transportation in church buses to the polls after Sunday services.

In Florida, racist Governor Ron DeSantis has forbidden his state’s educators from teaching students about slavery, or any mention of the LGBTQ community. Thousands of books containing information about slavery or homosexuality have been removed from libraries. Teachers who refuse to obey DeSantis’ edict can be fined, suspended, or fired.

Fear is spreading among the Black community as white supremacists and Neo-Nazi groups have been given a place in the decisions made by our federal government. The efforts to eliminate racism in America over the last 60 years and longer are under attack. Some have already been repealed.

America is THE nation of diversity. This fact is our national treasure. However, millions of men and women came out from the shadows between 2017 and 2021 and exposed themselves as haters and violent people, as opposed to the very existence of Black Americans.

The fight goes on. With politicians and Fox News spreading lies creating anger, hatred and inciting violence the war rages on. I contend that we are currently in a second Civil War. Not only are we in a fight for minority rights, but we are also engaged in a struggle for equality for women and the LGBTQ community. It’s a good fight, and a fight we can win and we must win. The future of the United States of America is in our hands, it’s called a “ballot.”

Op-ed by James Turnage


History: What is Juneteenth?; by Elizabeth Nix
Nation Museum of African American History and Culture: The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Phil Murphy’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Image Courtesy of Virginia Guard Public Affairs’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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