18 June 2021   Leave a comment

The US government has finally made Juneteenth a national holiday. Many Americans know little about the date and I will confess that the only thing I thought I knew about it was that slaves in Texas were finally informed about the Emancipation Proclamation long after the Civil War had ended. It turns out that my limited knowledge was wrong.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. had written previously about Juneteenth and his narrative is well worth reading. News about the Emancipation Proclamation had in fact arrived in Texas when it was issued in September 1862 and Confederate General Lee had surrendered in April 1865. So no one was “uninformed”–it was the reluctance of authorities to comply with the terms of the surrender:

“Since the capture of New Orleans in 1862, slave owners in Mississippi, Louisiana and other points east had been migrating to Texas to escape the Union Army’s reach. In a hurried re-enactment of the original Middle Passage, more than 150,000 slaves had made the trek west, according to historian Leon Litwack in his book Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery. As one former slave he quotes recalled, ” ‘It looked like everybody in the world was going to Texas.’ ”

“When Texas fell and Granger dispatched his now famous order No. 3, it wasn’t exactly instant magic for most of the Lone Star State’s 250,000 slaves. On plantations, masters had to decide when and how to announce the news — or wait for a government agent to arrive — and it was not uncommon for them to delay until after the harvest. Even in Galveston city, the ex-Confederate mayor flouted the Army by forcing the freed people back to work, as historian Elizabeth Hayes Turner details in her comprehensive essay, “Juneteenth: Emancipation and Memory,” in Lone Star Pasts: Memory and History in Texas.

“Those who acted on the news did so at their peril. As quoted in Litwack’s book, former slave Susan Merritt recalled, ” ‘You could see lots of niggers hangin’ to trees in Sabine bottom right after freedom, ’cause they cotch ’em swimmin’ ‘cross Sabine River and shoot ’em.’ ” In one extreme case, according to Hayes Turner, a former slave named Katie Darling continued working for her mistress another six years (She ” ‘whip me after the war jist like she did ‘fore,’ ” Darling said).”

I hope that recognition and further study of Juneteenth will serve to correct the self-serving myths about slavery that persist to this day. The need to address the still very active consequences of slavery is well documented by a study by the McKinsey Global Institute entitled “The economic state of Black America: What is and what could be”. Some of the conclusions of the highlight the persistence of the crime:

“Today the median annual wage for Black workers is approximately 30 percent, or $10,000, lower than that of white workers—a figure with enormous implications for household economic security, consumption, and the ability to build wealth. Black workers make up 12.9 percent of the US labor force today but earn only 9.6 percent of total US wages.

“We estimate a $220 billion annual disparity between Black wages today and what they would be in a scenario of full parity, with Black representation matching the Black share of the population across occupations and the elimination of racial pay gaps within occupational categories. Achieving this scenario would boost total Black wages by 30 percent and draw approximately one million additional Black workers into employment.”

I look forward to how we as a people will decide to celebrate this historic holiday.

24 Juneteenth! ideas | end of slavery, slavery, black history

Posted June 18, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: