The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order signed by President Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1862, during the Civil War. The proclamation read:
“That on the first day of January in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.”
With the passing of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, America is trying to right the wrong of the past, but yet, we still missed the mark because the date of the new holiday is misleading. If not corrected, students will continue to be taught incorrect historical facts. The bill, ordinance, and others like it speak to why Black history should be taught in public education on a comprehensive level. The curriculum was void of essential facts and many events in the time period were glossed over. As far as the teaching of Black history is concern, Whites got it wrong; Blacks got it wrong; Americans of all hues got this wrong. The miseducation of Black history needs to be taught to K-12 students.
Forty-six states have approved June 19 as a paid or legal state holiday. Many state governments and people believe that June 19, 1865, ended slavery in America, which is historically incorrect. The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, was unanimously passed in the U.S. Senate last week, however 14 house Republicans voted no. All of Colorado’s congressional members voted to approve the holiday.
Historically many people are not aware of or choose to ignore when chattel slavery ended in America. Two requirements have to be met in order for a proposal to become an amendment: 2/3 approval of the Congress and 3/4 of the states must ratify the proposal to become law as an amendment. During our country’s history, there were 36 states in America and 27 states were needed to ratify the proposal. Georgia was the 27th state to ratify the proposal which became the 13th Amendment on December 6, 1865, which ended chattel slavery. It must be noted that in the six months leading up to the ratification by Georgia—December 6, 1865 — there were at least 225,000 Black people enslaved in Kentucky alone. Chattel slavery was still LEGAL in the United States and practiced in Delaware and Kentucky.
In order to be historically correct, December 6 should be Black Liberation Day instead of June 19. I applaud the intent of the Black legislators and supporters of the current actions. If their intent is pure, then they should put aside their ego and replace it with truth and honor. America would never allow anyone to designate July 3rd as Independence Day. Not one person reading this article would accept any day other than their birthday as fact. So why should we accept what is a bold, and now popular, historical error in the spirit of acknowledging America’s Original Sin? The reason people are accepting this error is because of IGNORANCE. Ben Franklin once said, “the only thing more expensive than education is ignorance.” Franklin also owned slaves, he corrected his error. Out of respect for ALL my ancestors, Remembrance, Honor, and History are loudly calling upon us to in the words of Spike Lee, “To Do The Right Thing!”
I understand the shame America has about her original sin, which is, in part, why the Black Experience, aka, Black History is not taught in schools today. There is a price for our ignorance, and today, following the ‘wokeness’ of America because of the murder of George Floyd, we have sat quietly by and watched 46 States dishonor those quarter of a million Black people.
Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, is the name given to Emancipation Day by African Americans in Texas. On that day in 1865, Union Major-General Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 to the people of Galveston. It stated:
“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.”
With the rise of racism and white supremacy, the rights granted to African Americans through the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments began to be curtailed. They faced segregation in many aspects of life, including education, religion, dining establishments, jobs, and transportation, as evidenced by the bill passed in 1889 by the 21st Legislature allowing for separate railroad coaches for passengers of different races. African Americans lived through segregation by establishing their own schools, businesses, dining establishments and churches within their communities. Example is the Tulsa race massacre of 1921. People want to call the massacre a race riot which people have accepted this error because of ignorance. President Biden and Vice President Harris, along with the people and survivors of the massacre, called what happened in Tulsa a race massacre not a race riot.
Representative Al Edwards, a Democrat from Houston, introduced a bill calling for Juneteenth to become a state holiday. The state legislature passed the act in 1979, and Governor William P. Clements, Jr., signed it into law. The first state-sponsored Juneteenth celebration took place in 1980. In succeeding years, Juneteenth also had an impact outside the state.
Another person to be credited for Juneteenth is Opal Lee. She was 12 when a mob of white supremacists vandalized and set fire to her family’s home in Fort Worth, Texas. Helpless, she watched her home burn to the ground as police stood by, doing nothing to stop the violence. It was a dream of 94-year-old Fort Worth activist Opal Lee, who spent much of her life fighting for — the federal recognition of Juneteenth as a national holiday. President Joe Biden and vice president Kamala Harris signed the bill officially establishing June 19 as a U.S. federal holiday, after being passed with overwhelming support by the Senate and House.
The legislation carries particular significance to Texas, mainly thanks to Ms. Lee, who has gained national attention for her annual Walk 2 DC event during which she trekked 2.5 miles every day from Fort Worth to Washington, D.C., in hopes of raising awareness and obtaining signatures for her Juneteenth petition. Last year, Ms. Lee received shout-outs from celebrities like Diddy and Lupita Nyong’o, subsequently reaching more than 1.5 million signatures. Earlier this year, Ms. Lee received the Hospitality Award from Visit Fort Worth for the way her campaign pushed the city into the national spotlight.
Indeed, the pen is mightier than the sword, so let us use the pen to correct the date. For those who have passed the legislation, simply change the date from June 19 to December 6, and ALL will be honored. True leaders, when faced with new accurate information, change course. Those who do not in the words of A Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the TRUTH!”
Dr. Jamie Johnson is a retired RE-1 Valley School District business teacher and FBLA advisor.
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