“Juneteenth is sacred. It is a day to honor our ancestors, and reflect on community love, family unity, and self-love. There is no national holiday that can heal that wound.” On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston to read General Order #3, freeing all slaves. For freed enslaved peoples, that day has become known as Juneteenth or Emancipation Day. General Order #3 occurred two months after Robert E. Lee surrendered the last major Confederate army to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse. General Grant and 2,000 Union Soldiers rolled up or stumbled upon enslaved in Texas two- and one-half years after Lincoln issued the proclamation. Many Southern enslavers had moved their slaves to Texas believing the South would still rise. On this occasion, they miscalculated.
In theory, Lincoln’s proclamation could have been issued months earlier. As a strategy for strategic momentum, Lincoln considered freeing the slaves only after the Union Soldiers had a significate victory over the Confederate Army. He did not want to appear weak. For two- and one-half years after Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation, confederate sympathizing southern enslavers, shielded the truth, brutalized, terrorized, and continued to deny freedom to enslaved Black peoples. The proclamation was impotent in Texas and other surrounding southern adjacent states, until May of 1865. The nature of communication modes, and confederate state insurgency, kept many enslaved people unaware of their new freedom.
Southern terror and white supremacy practices were not limited to the confederacy. Southern indigenous native American tribes were also guilty of brutalizing enslaved Black Peoples. The Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Catawba, and Creek tribes all fought on the losing side of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Native tribes fought on the side of the confederacy for a promise of land and money. As a Muscogee Creek Freedman, I am particularly disturbed by the current and past actions of Muscogee Creek Nation.
It’s been one year since the U.S. Senate passed the Juneteenth National Holiday Bill and sent it to the desk of President Biden for his signature. This is the same senate that can’t reach a majority to vote on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act or agree on life-saving gun legislation. We continue to live in a divided country where many have tuned out the January 6th hearing and are not interested in the seditious actions of an out-of-control ex-president. America continues to be a chaotically divided country. The descendants of enslaved Africans are familiar with the contradictions of our culture, policy, and governance.
These are the past and current historical circumstances and backdrop for which Juneteenth exists. Juneteenth is a day to reflect on our ancestors and the brutalization they suffered under the hands of white supremacy for over 402 years and look to the future for better days. It is a time to reflect on the lives lost, and blood sacrifices, and share stories of our ancestor’s strength and collective survival. As a people, we have had hope when hope was unborn. It’s also a time to commit as Americans to never repeat such brutal atrocities.
Any apologies from states and our federal government fall short without remedies to compensate descendants for the insidious systems that have crippled former enslaved Africans throughout the U.S. No legislation could ever repair the damage created by the centuries of brutality. Reparations, can never repay American Descendants of Slaves for our ancestors’ labor? Juneteenth has become a requiem and celebration for descendants of formerly enslaved Blacks. How can you celebrate rape, torture, the separation of generations of families, and the inhumanity and self-serving brutality?
‘To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time. ‘James Baldwin
Dr. Franklin is a professor of Public Policy and Public Administration. He lectures and consults on organizational sustainability and organizational development strategies. Franklin is published and has recently completed a chapter on social equity that is published in Lessons in Social Equity: A Case Study Book.