Juneteenth: America's Second Independence Day

June 19, 2020

 

 

 

 

By Marc Kelley

Syndicated by: Montana News

Once again, we find ourselves watching as historical monuments are defaced and torn down under the premise, the monuments themselves represent the promulgation of hate. Yet, removing the monuments, will not, in and of itself, erase the pain and injustice, which our country has seen; but rather, simply set the stage for the next round of pain and suffering our country will surly have to endure. While politicians grandstand, pose for photo's and lecture us, on how we as a nation must begin an "uncomfortable conversation" about racial injustice, suffering and changing the status quo, they in fact, haven't got a clue, how to begin such a conversation.

 

If we are to accept the assertion, America is systemically racist, we must also accept the idea, people of color will never be allowed to prosper, succeed, or excel in any endeavor they would choose to undertake. The danger in accepting this premiss, is the reality, nothing will be learned and nothing will be changed. If in fact, the end goal of the civil unrest playing out in our country, is to educate the unknowing, change the status quo and, move the concept of racial justice for all to the forefront of people minds, we must begin with our children.

 

If we believe our children are the most precious resource our country has, we must then, prepare them for the future by educating them about the past. If we approach our country's history concerning slavery and racial injustice in much the same way Christian's celebrate Easter, an entirely different ideology begins to emerge. We do not celebrate the fact Jesus was crucified and died, we celebrate the reality, he died for our sins and rose again. We should not celebrate the enslavement of fellow human beings, we should celebrate the fact, our country recognized the injustice and took the right steps to end that injustice.

 

It seems in 2020, the only way anyone is interested in teaching our history, is to tear down monuments, loot and burn inner city business and occupy several city blocks of a beautiful, American city. Many voices have been heard of late, proclaiming the successes of Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey, represent the exception to the rule, for people of color. To believe this, only serves to minimize the accomplishments of so many other individuals, as to be insulting on its face. If we truly want a deeper and honest understanding of the many accomplishments and contributions made to our country, by people of color, we must then, teach, not only the ugly side of our history, but the uplifting side as well. Only by telling the truth, will we begin to change the status quo and continue down the path of racial justice, for all of the people of our country.

 

The date June 19, 1865, will likely not ring a bell in most peoples heads. Yet, it is this date which should be celebrated and appropriately acknowledged, as America's second Independence Day. On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln, issued the Emancipation Proclamation, proclaiming all persons held as slaves were thereby freed. While this proclamation had little effect in actually freeing slaves held in the Confederate States, it was embraced by the Northern States and fundamentally changed the course of the Civil War. However, unlike today, there was no social media or 24/7 news coverage to help spread the word into the states, still held by the Confederacy; nor, were the Democrat Politicians controlling the Southern States, too anxious to inform their slaves of the emancipation. To help the Democrats along, Union Army General, Gordon Granger was dispatched with orders to deliver, what would come to be known in history, as General Order #3.

 

On June 19, 1865, General, Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to read aloud, The Emancipation Proclamation and deliver, General Order #3, officially notifying the slaves still held in Texas, their country's President, had officially declared them to be free.

 

Wanting not only to celebrate, but mark this day in history, for all future generations, the newly freed people of Texas began planning a gathering. However, because of rapidly expanding state segregation laws, no public places or parks were permitted to be used for the celebration. Embracing their newly won American pride and indomitable spirit, a group of former slaves worked for nearly five years, pooling their money, and raising the $ 800.00 they needed, to purchase four acres of land, upon which to hold their annual celebration.

 

The free men called their site..."Emancipation Park."

As the years turned into decades the celebration now known as Juneteenth, began to wane. Stifled by Jim Crow Laws and acts of violence, it was hard for people of color to celebrate freedom. Not until the Civil Rights Movement, and the emergence of Dr. King, did the celebration, once again, come to the attention of the American people. In 1968, Dr. King was instrumental in planning and instituting, a protest in Washington DC, known as the "Poor People's March." The protest was specifically set to coincide with the Juneteenth celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation. As word of the planned protest reach the Washington, DC, politicians, the wheels of bigotry and racism began to turn. Then President, Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, activated 20,000, US Military Troops, with orders to defend the capital and specifically secure Lafayette Park, fearing rioters would attempt a takeover of the White House. In Congress, Democrat Senators, Russell Long of Louisiana and John McCellan of Arkansas, called for the censure of any congressional members who were supportive of the march. In an impassioned speech on the floor of the US Senate, Russell Long said ,"when that bunch of marchers comes here, they can just burn the whole place down and we can just move the capital to someplace they enforce the law." Echoing the sentiment, Senator McCellen came to the Senate dais, to accuse the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, of attempting to start a riot, which would allow the marchers to, "go to Washington one night and get on welfare the next day" rendering Washington, DC a "Mecca for migrants." 

 

The weeks leading up to the Poor Peoples March in June 1968, could not illustrate more clearly, the dangers of ignoring history, as it relates to the happenings, in June of 2020. As people arrived in Washington, DC they began erecting tents along the reflecting pool of the Washington Monument. In what the media labeled a "shanty town," the people occupying the area, named it, "Resurrection City." By June 17, 1968, Resurrection City held by nearly 3,000 protesters, vowing to remain on the site until justice was served and their demands were met. On June 20, 1968, police fired tear gas canisters into Resurrection City, in an effort to evict the protesters. Even though a number of people were hospitalized, none were seriously injured.

 

As a justification for the police action, the media reported the violence was provoked by a number of "paid infiltrators" throwing molotov cocktails and rocks at the police officers. The actions of the police which followed over the next several days, precipitated the typical Washington, DC response… a lengthy, costly investigation into police brutality against the people of Resurrection City, in which no one was held accountable for their actions.

 

In an effort to make Junteenth a National Holiday, Texas Congresswoman, Sheila Jackson Lee, has introduced legislation to the US House of Representatives over twenty times; yet time and time again, the legislation failed to garner the support needed, to bring her bill to the House Floor. Even during the eight years of the Obama Presidency, when the Democrats held both Houses of Congress, Jackson Lee's own party refused to support her Juneteenth Legislation. 

 

 

In 2018, the Republican led, US Senate, passed a resolution which would designate June 19 as, "Juneteenth Independence Day." Unfortunately, as of today, the US House of Representatives, has been far too busy, to bring the resolution to the floor. Begging the question, just what does the Democrat Party have against people of color? Not until, President, Donald Trump announced his intention to hold a rally on June 19, 2020, did the left speak up concerning Juneteenth. Perhaps now, after 155 years of ignoring Juneteenth, will the lefts hatred for Donald Trump, be sufficient to motivate them to seeing the benefit of history and to take action, not to destroy history, but rather, to make history, by passing the Republican led legislation, establishing June 19, as a National Holiday.

 

 

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