As our nation celebrated the new national holiday “Juneteenth,” I had many conflicting thoughts about this day. One was why did we need a holiday to recognize that the last of the slaves were told they were free. It just did not make sense to me. It bothered me to the point I did some research to understand it.
In 1861, the American Civil War started. The southern states seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States of America and elected their own president – Jefferson Davis. The North and South had a major difference of opinion on the direction of the country. The North wanted an industrialized nation. Whereas the South wanted to hold on to their familiar economic interests, and cultural values. They challenged the power of the federal government and would rather go to war than give up their most valuable commodity – Slaves.
The research indicated that there were over 488,000 free Blacks at the time. My first train of thought was why did it take two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed for slaves to know they were free? Especially since there were Negro news publications and the traditional way slaves communicated through songs. However, the fact reminds that in the South at that time reading and writing were outlawed and the punishment in most cases was death. Was it fear that kept them enslaved for two additional years? I do not know how the slaves got the message, but history verifies that the Union won the Civil War due to slaves fighting and helping to defeat the South.
That brings me to why I struggled with the celebration of Juneteenth. During the Middle Passage over two million kidnapped Africans died. Another four million slaves were killed during the period of 1500 through the 1900s. Is it, ironic that up to this day Blacks are being killed by law enforcement. Will Juneteenth bring us closer to legal and moral justice? This is very questionable in my mind because, at the time of this writing, the U.S. Congress does not believe Blacks should have legal equality. If they did why have they not passed the George Floyd bill?
What about reparation owed to Black people. The 40 acres were promised, given, and then taken back. Every descendant of a slave is owed a debt from their forced labor. How does this country repay that debt? Are Black lives less valuable than those of the Shoah? I do not mean to sound bitter or negative, but slaves were a big part of the making of this great country and we shall never forget it.
If Juneteenth is the road to correcting the many injustices that Black Americans suffer, I welcome the holiday. However, if it is a cruel mockery of our people’s history, I do not welcome it. We must remember that the fight was about the South seceding from the Union. On June 19, 1865, the Union Army made its final defeat over the Confederate winning the war which allowed the slaves to be free. A by-product of the win in other words. –by LC DeVine