Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another, is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another, is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which, or neither of these version could be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln's authority over the rebellious states was in question For whatever the reasons, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.
General Order Number 3
One of General Granger’s first orders of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3 which began most significantly with:
"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 free laborer."
The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. While many lingered to learn of this new employer to employee relationship, many left before these offers were completely off the lips of their former 'masters' - attesting to the varying conditions on the plantations and the realization of freedom. Even with nowhere to go, many felt that leaving the plantation would be their first grasp of freedom. North was a logical destination and for many it represented true freedom, while the desire to reach family members in neighboring states drove the some into Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Settling into these new areas as free men and women brought on new realities and the challenges of establishing a heretofore non-existent status for black people in America. Recounting the memories of that great day in June of 1865 and its festivities would serve as motivation as well as a release from the growing pressures encountered in their new territory. The celebration of June 19th was coined "Juneteenth" and grew with more participation from descendants. The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date.
On April 4, 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.
He’s remembered in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans, along with others around the world. He’s honored with the most beloved statue on the mall in Washington, D.C.
The Saturday before his death he met with his staff in Atlanta and agonized over the divisions among the American people including in the civil rights movement, over the Vietnam War. He saw it as a tragedy and it weighted heavy on his heart and mind, but the Holy Spirit revived his spirit and he emerged triumphant and determined to carry on with the Poor Peoples’ Campaign.
He was determined to end the War in Vietnam; and he was unwavering in putting the civil rights movement’s goal of ending poverty with a job or a guaranteed income before the nation.
Dr. King knew that the bombs dropping in Vietnam was immorally killing young Americans and the Vietnamese abroad while our cities were exploding at home.
For many of us, before and after Dr. King, living in the shadow of his leadership, life, legacy and sacrificial death has now become a frame of reference for the rest of the world.
Dr. King is the only non-politician on the mall in Washington, DC. He was a non-violent activist man of peace. He not only believed in a better world, he dared to act to make it happen.
Dr. King led the movement that pulled down the cotton curtain that separated North from South. Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy in Alabama, no longer leads the New South. The same Montgomery, Alabama that was home to the Confederacy with the pitter-patter of our marching feet transformed the South and elevated a nation.
These days it’s hard to imagine the violence and barbarism that was once the South but unfortunately the pockets of poverty still exist.
On Commerce Street in Montgomery, Alabama, we were displayed on the dock of the river chained and shackled and sold as commodities. A block down the street from George Wallace’s office was at the Capitol Building, and two blocks from Jefferson’s Davis’ White House in Montgomery as he seceded from the Union and engaged in the tradition of slavery, segregation and sedition in our country. Against that backdrop of darkness, a powerful message of light over darkness, love over hate and healing over hurt was born.
Without a gun or a standing army, Dr. King emerged victorious. We marched and prayed and sacrificed. A New South is the key to a New America.
When Alabama played Clemson in football, the number one team in the nation, we could sit together by the thousands and cheer as the nation looked on by the millions, a multiracial, multicultural and multi-religious audience of fans who just a few years ago were prohibited from gathering together for the game before it started.
Today when Alabama plays Clemson, black and white players play together on the field of competition joined by uniform color, not separated by skin color. They compete as brothers at these events.
Dr. King, the transformer, removed historic social barriers. He created a New South where all can vote and Jimmy Carter from Plains, Georgia and George W. Bush from Odessa, Texas, could become President of the United States; and an African American with a strange name, Barack Hussein Obama, could go to the White House.
These are all phenomenal events related to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
He is the tallest tree in America’s forest of leadership. He’s the prime example that right wins over wrong, and love is stronger than hate.
This giant of a man, less than six feet tall, is a frame of reference of dignity for people around the world. Along with about eight staff members or disciples, together we went from a taxing staff meeting, a kind of Last Supper on Saturday in Atlanta, Georgia, to a sort of Palm Sunday experience on the mountaintop in church on April 3 and on to the crucifixion on April 4 in Memphis, Tennessee.
At 6:00 p.m. on April 4th, Dr. King was crucified. We are now living the resurrection; continuing to fight for his hopes and dreams. I was blessed to know him, work with him, and walk with him and to have lived long enough to see many of his dreams come true.
- Jesse Jackson
Sat 4 Apr, 2020 07:49 am
Disabled vet fighting U.S. propaganda
As MLK started shifting his message to anti-imperialism, anti-war and sought to unite the poor he was painted as a traitor and communist.
The media and Gov't narratives were so pervasive that almost 1/2 of the black population disapproved of him at the time of his death.