What is Juneteenth Really?


A meaningful and lasting holiday is rooted in and involves some sort of blood.  Christmas is the celebration of the blood of new life, Easter the blood of crucifixion and resurrection; July 4 the blood of a war fought for independence and birth a new nation, Memorial day the blood of those who defended that nation through their death; Veteran’s day the blood spilled in battle but survived, Thanksgiving the blood of near starvation.  Even Labor day is the celebration of the blood of workers, and president’s day the blood of Lincoln and Washington.  And so, it is only logical that Juneteenth grew from small celebrations in Texas and the west coast to it being catapulted by the death of a black man in Minneapolis at the hands of police into a new phenomenon celebration.

Holidays without blood have no enduring meaning, which is why Kwanzaa never really caught on, and never will.  It is not tied to anything; it holds no value.  Juneteenth is monumental, hands down. September 11th holds more somberness than any other day, just as December 7th is still recognized over eighty years later.  Blood.

But Juneteenth will not last because it is being separated from the blood and the conflict that drew that blood, the tie of blood and the history is already fading and replaced by the blood of Black tragedy—street culture.  I have yet to see a satisfying Juneteenth celebration with any historical relevance.  Instead, a bunch of uncultured behavior with little to no reference to the event that brought us to the moment.  Ask those around you what actually happened on June 19th, 1865, and you probably get blank stares.

In 1860, President Lincoln won the general election to become America’s 16th president.  Campaigning on the abolition of slavery, and on the heels of John Brown’s raid to begin a slave revolt, the southern states of the US seceded from the US to form the Confederate States of America (Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Texas), expressly to wage war with any US forces sent to restore them to the union and release slaves.  In April of 1861, anticipating military action by Washington, CSA forces bombarded Fort Sumpter in Charleston and the Civil war, War between the States, or War of Northern Aggression (stay away from anyone who uses that last term) began.

In 1863, President Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, administratively freeing all slaves in the rebelling states.  States that did not secede were not subject to this.  The debate over Lincoln’s motivation to do this and the appropriateness of this use of executive order is a separate discussion.  Nonetheless, this early EO had no teeth until ultimate victory was achieved.  It would take two more years of bloody war, approximately 650,000 troops (both sides) dead, and over a million civilian deaths including slaves.  But when General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army on April 9, it was over.

In a time of horse carriage mail and telegraphs, the word of freedom for former slaves had not reached all corners of the country.  So, Gordon Granger, the new commander of the military district of Texas set about getting the word to areas that were unnotified.

General Granger rode into Galveston Texas with Special order #3 which began with this statement:

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”

General Gordon Granger, June 19th 1865 in Galveston, Texas

After four years of bloody war, death and destruction and suffering, freedom and independence had come to black people.






Has any Juneteenth celebration you attended or witnessed included any of that?

For Christmas, there are re-enactments of the birth of Christ; Easter, the crucifixion; July 4th fireworks symbolizing the British bombardment of Fort McHenry; Thanksgiving is a re-enactment of the nourishment of the pilgrims.  All around the world, significant holidays are marked with re-enactments of the event.  I have seen no re-enactment of federal troops entering a town and bringing the revelation of freedom to jubilant former slaves.

What I have seen are parades with no theme, ceremonies with no mention, and music with no purpose.  Christmas has Handel’s “Messiah” and the ubiquitous carols, and some of the other holidays have music related to the event. 

What music is related to Juneteenth?

Shouldn’t a string orchestra play the music of the time?





Or is the mood set with rap music and all of its vulgarity and violence.  This holiday does not exist as the result of an earnest effort to share that black freedom did not come until 1861—it came as a result of placating hordes of violent uninformed rioters—so that is what the day really is, not General Granger or freed slaves, it’s a day of subversive counterculture disrupting society.



I’m beginning to think this holiday was a bad idea.

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