Happy Juneteenth!

This is an African American holiday started in Texas, for obvious reasons. Wikipedia has a nice summary of key info:

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. State of Texas in 1865. Celebrated on June 19, the term is a portmanteau of June and nineteenth, and is recognized as a state holiday in 31 of the United States.

That is, word of President Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation of January 1863 reached Texas only in June 1865:

The holiday originated in Galveston, Texas; for more than a century, the state of Texas was the primary home of Juneteenth celebrations. Since 1980, Juneteenth has been an official state holiday in Texas. It is considered a “partial staffing holiday” meaning that state offices do not close but some employees will be using a floating holiday to take the day off. Twelve other states list it as an official holiday, including Arkansas, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Alaska and California, where Governor Schwarzenegger proclaimed the day “Juneteenth” on June 19, 2005. Connecticut, however, does not consider it a legal holiday or close government offices in observance of the occasion. Its informal observance has spread to some other states, with a few celebrations even taking place in other countries.

As of May 2009, 31 states and the District of Columbia have recognized Juneteenth as either a state holiday or state holiday observance; these include Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.

This is also a day to remember the 500,000 African Americans, who as soldiers and support troops, many of them formerly enslaved, volunteered for the Union Army at its low point, and who thus played a (the?) key role in winning the Civil War. This is an ironic day, too, given the very weak apology for slavery voted on this week in the mostly white US Senate. A bit late.


  1. Nquest

    Outside of the irony of the day (I wonder if the sponsors of the legislation planned the date for the official vote/release), it’s ironic that the age old Civil War dead as payment enough meme Chris Matthews barked out today always seems to imply that African Americans were not a part of either the 600K soldiers who died in the Civil War or any aspect of the confluence of forces that brought about an end to slavery, let alone soldiers in every government war from the Revolutionary war ’til present and a host of revolts that were unambiguously about ending slavery vs. preserving the Union.
    So I often wonder if the boisterous Civil War body count narrative is an unwitting expression of how White Americans view the life of White people as more valuable than non-white life. Indeed, the non-recognition of the number of Black/African-Americans who died either as soldiers for the country or freedom fighters against the country suggests that the lives of Black people, or sacrifices via deaths-in-struggle/war, have no count-value at all.

  2. Nquest

    I’ll also add that a lot of the talk about “the progress” we’ve made as a nation regarding the issue of race/racism also has this curious narrative that doesn’t properly count the contributions African-Americans made to said “progress.” This “progress” narrative, perhaps in a more subtle manner, re-centers the Civil War white-sacrifice/effort notion ignoring White violence, White opposition and backlash to the half-celebrated civil rights acts that has yet to cease.
    The way some folks tell it, if you didn’t know any better, you’d think one day Dr. King made a speech and the next day a majority of White Americans voted for the “dream” changes vs. the government conceding to the demands of the Black rights movements where Jews, always a very small percentage of total U.S. population, constituted the majority of Whites who actively supported the Civil Rights Movement.

  3. jwbe

    it’s also odd that America somehow likes to forget all those Black people who struggled in regardless which way against the white establishment and slavery.
    I also don’t have the impression that Black abolutionists get the same honor or attention like eg John Brown.
    Perhaps I missed it.

  4. Nquest – I’m not sure that’s an example of the valuing of white life. I just think that in our collective memory, the Civil War was fought by millions of white men, and for those who’ve seen the movie, Denzel Washington.
    That said, the meme itself is silly! If nothing else, it ain’t like all the white people were fighting for the North. And there’s absolutely no logic or rhyme to the argument that the deaths made up for the terror and dislocation of slavery. That’s like if a woman is saved from her abusive husband by her brother, and her husband says she should come home, cause after all, he’s not abusing her anymore. Huh? Yeah, see, even the example I just pulled makes no sense. And that’s how I feel about the who Civil War meme. Plus, I guess I should confess, it wasn’t like the North was fighting to free the slaves until 2 years in. And you know what, funny that all those white men (according to the meme) died, but millions of formerly enslaved survived. Since when did “reparations” come in the form of blood?

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