freedom and that OTHER celebration

So today is Independence Day where we as Americans commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. Or we more commonly refer to this 4th of July as a day to reflect on our freedom as a country and eat a lot of barbecue. But what of freedom for everyone? History tells us that slaves (mostly blacks but a few other minorities) were far from free for decades to come. You may be thinking, “What about the Emancipation Proclamation?”

There is a common misconception among Americans that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves with a stroke of his pen. Yet the Emancipation Proclamation, which went into effect on January 1, 1863, did no such thing — or, at least, it didn’t do a very good job of it. Two and a half years later, on June 19, 1865, Union soldiers sailed into Galveston, Texas, announced the end of the Civil War, and read aloud a general order freeing the quarter-million slaves residing in the state. It’s likely that none of them had any idea that they had actually been freed more than two years before. It was truly a day of mass emancipation. It has become known as Juneteenth.1

Can or should non-Blacks celebrate Juneteenth? Juneteenth is for ALL people, anyone who celebrates the basic tenets of freedom, human dignity, and equality. There were a great many white people who were ecstatic that slaves were emancipated. Standing together publicly to denounce today’s racism doesn’t hurt either.2

1 Gilbert Cruz, A Brief History of Juneteenth (2008 article from TIME)
2Abel Pharmboy of scienceblogs.com

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2 comments on "freedom and that OTHER celebration"

  1. Thank you for pointing out that Lincoln did not really free the slaves. It drives me crazy when people believe that. I always teach my children the truth about emancipation. Lincoln freed the slave in the South where he had no control. Border states kept their slaves until the end of the war.

    Freedom and independence is always in the eye of the beholder. We are a country of contradictions, the home of the free built by slavery.

    I think that holidays are often just a day off and the importance of the holiday is lost. The real miracle of July 1776 is that a country of what the British considered peasants defeated the super power of the world, winning only a few actual battles. This young up start country also created a democracy that is copied around the world,the first truly inclusive(more now than then)democracies. I often think of our country as a teenager, especially compared to other parts of the world, we are young, prone to mistakes, cocky, frequently unable to grow without discomfort and repeating the mistakes of our parents.

  2. Lyn, the metaphor of our country being like a teenager is SO perfect.

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