19 June 2021

It's Officially Juneteenth

This is the first Juneteenth that is an official Federal holiday, thanks to the legislation recently passed by Congress and signed into law.

Juneteenth celebrates the arrival of Union troops in Galveston, freeing the slaves in Texas.

Most of the mainstream media describe as something to the effect of, "Informed the slaves of their freedom," but this is not true.

The slaves knew that they had been freed for years, their owners however, continued to use terrorist tactics to keep them enslaved, and the Union troops enforced the newly freed slaves freedom at the point of a bayonet pointed at the heart of their white former owners.

Even after losing the war, Southern slave holders tried to keep blacks as property, and had to be disabused of that notion by the threat of lethal force: (H/T Bear who Swims for the link)


My change in emotion comes after learning from historian friends that the oft-repeated tale of Union soldiers arriving in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865 to inform enslaved African Americans that they were free is pure fiction. Not because they weren’t legally freed 2-½ months earlier when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox. Or technically freed 2-1/2 years before when President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring slavery null and void in areas under rebellion, very much including Texas.

Rather, I now know, the big lie is the incessantly repeated canard that Galveston’s po’ ignant Black folks didn’t know they was free, and that U.S. Major Gen. Gordon Granger had to read a proclamation to spell it out for them.

In fact, they most certainly did know.


If Galveston’s Blacks already knew they were free, obviously so too did their slaveholders, who nonetheless kept them in bondage — not by cunning or deceit or ignorance, but by the brute force and tactics of dehumanizing torture they had been using for 200 years.

Gen. Granger didn’t bring liberation by words on a scroll but by troops with fixed bayonets.


On the outside chance that Down’s 2015 essay may have been superseded by new historical research, I spoke with him this week. It hasn’t been, he said, reiterating; “It’s not that Gen. Granger was giving information to the enslaved people. He was giving it to the masters” — at the barrel of a gun.


None of this is to say that African Americans, or all Americans, shouldn’t celebrate the well-intentioned holiday to Black freedom just created. But if you’re still clutching to any vestige of the popular myth, consider that well before Lee’s surrender, with the Confederacy clearly losing the war, slaveholders from throughout the South relocated their human property to Texas in advance of Union troops to preserve slavery for as long as they could.


 For them, I’ll explain: It’s called teaching what actually happened, and what didn’t. And what happened in Galveston on June 19, 1865, is that Gen. Granger arrived to forcibly liberate Black people from intransigent slaveholders who everyone knew were free.

That’s the true history of Juneteenth — along with a message that somehow has eluded the South and their white supremacist inheritors today:

You lost the damned war. Surrender already.

You lost. Get over it.

Even after surrendering, the South needed to be forced not to be evil at the barrel of a gun.

This lesson should be remembered, and perhaps emulated.

Also, in this case, (for once) I agree with John Roberts:  Remedial measures should not be limited to the former states of the Confederacy, but instead should be extended nation wide.

It's time to pry their guns from their cold, dead hands.


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