Juneteenth history lesson
…. Juneteenth provides one more chance to remember one of the great myths of American history.
Juneteenth marks the day — June 19, 1865, to be precise — when Union troops under the command of Gordon Granger arrived in Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. You may have heard Juneteenth named as the end of slavery in the United States or the longest-running African American holiday.
And the holiday’s very existence puts the truth to the myth about the Emancipation Proclamation. Perhaps you, like me, heard growing up that Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves.
The reality was that no one was freed in fact by the Emancipation Proclamation when it was signed on Jan. 1, 1863. There is a reason we don’t celebrate Juneteenth in January. The Emancipation Proclamation declared “free” “all persons held as slaves within said designated States and parts of States.”
In fact, back in September, Abraham Lincoln had declared his intention to declare free slaves in states that were still rebelling against the Union. The Emancipation Proclamation gave the list of those states and parts of states that were then in revolt, and therefore those areas where slaves were declared free.
That means that the Emancipation Proclamation declared free only those slaves in areas then under Confederate control.
It would take more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation for Gen. Gordon Granger to reach Texas and announce its effect in the Lone Star State. The intervening time span saw the Battle of Gettysburg, Sherman’s March To The Sea and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
You might say the Emancipation Proclamation announced a promise it took the Union army some time to fulfill.
And therein is one of the lessons of Juneteenth: our country’s great documents contain lofty themes. Freedom. Liberty. A more perfect union.
To make these lofty themes a reality requires the action of real people on the ground. We can all be those people.
Rainbow Art Walk
I wanted to express my sincere gratitude to the organizers of the Belen Rainbow Art Walk, who were many in number.
In addition to the live art demonstration with aerial chalk, many of the galleries and businesses on Becker Avenue opened their doors to participate in the festivities.
The event meant many different things to many different people. To me, it was a celebration of playfulness. I hadn’t felt that level of joy since I was a student and performer with Washington Improv Theater a decade ago. I felt decorated by love.
The chalk started blowing away almost immediately and there will be no trace of it soon. I’ve showered and washed my clothes (they came out spotlessly clean). But the memories will remain with me for a very long time.
The Valencia County News-Bulletin is a locally owned and operated community newspaper, dedicated to serving Valencia County since 1910 through the highest journalistic and professional business standards. The VCNB is published weekly on Thursdays, including holidays both in print and online.