Such a day, then and now.
For you all outside of the United States (hello, Denmark) you may not know that Juneteenth is June 19th, 1865—Emancipation Day, Freedom Day—commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
Well now hang on Hank, you say, I thought the Civil War ended in 1863. Ah, yes, astute Europeans, but you’re dealing with the United States. So right there you’ve got a story. Though the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1862 formally took effect on January 1, 1863, wait for it, now, because this is important: no one told Texas. Or more specifically, no one told the slaves in Texas.
Nearly three years after the issuance of the Proclamation—on June 18th, 1865—Union General Gordon Granger and federal troops arrived in Galveston. Their mission was to finally take possession of the very Confederate state of Texas. (Texas was even then a long, long way away.) You can imagine how popular those troops must have been. The next day, from the balcony of a fancy fancy house, Granger read the contents of “General Order No. 3”, so hold on to your collective hats here:
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 personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere. [ ᔥ Wikipedia]
Not exactly a hell-raising speech, but enough. Presumably General Granger went back inside the fancy house and had (another) stiff drink. One wonders who served it.
The now really former slaves continued dying of malnutrition, smallpox, yellow fever and the like, but as of that moment they were free to do so. Thus did Juneteenth originate in Texas.
And Texas is where Hank first ran into Juneteenth years ago as well as the most monuments to the War of Northern Aggression he’d ever seen. Oh, hello, Juneteenth. I’m sorry I’ve not met you before…are they talking about the Civil War?
Hank’s been reading Eric Foner’s classic tome (and it is truly a tome), RECONSTRUCTION America’s Unfinished Revolution: 1863-1877. He’s also working through This Republic of Suffering by Drew Gilpin Faust. He heartily recommends them.
And he hopes that you and yours had a light-filled and blessed Freedom Day.
“Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. ”
—Frederick Douglass, from his “West India Emancipation” speech August 3, 1857