The Importance of Dates
Have you ever wondered why people celebrate specific dates? Among the numerous reasons is that dates serve as memorials for events; sometimes, they serve as pointers to notable marks in history and as a guide for future generations, thereby contributing to the formation of identity. All these characteristics hold for the celebration of June 19th or Juneteenth among blacks of African descent in the United States of America. The day is ‘Black-American’s Independence Day’.
Going Back in Time
The year was 1619, a date recorded in history when the business of buying and selling “black-skinned humans” as an item and ownership as property commenced in the United States. These people were held against their will and forced to work without pay. This practice lasted over two hundred years spanning from 1619 -1865. During this period, more than seven million Blacks of African ancestry were distributed across the country, denied the political, educational, and economic privilege. By 1800, the practice had become widespread, though with varying intensity across the country. Particularly in the South, the U.S. slave economy contributed to the uprising that led Southern English-speaking Americans who came to the region, to oust the Mexicans, and make it an independent territory under their control. Under their new government, the area made slavery constitutional, resulting in an over 500 percent increase (from 5000 black slaves in 1836 to over 30,000 black slaves by 1845) in less than ten years.
In another two decades, the 1860 polls recorded over 180,000 slaves in the population, which caused considerable tension between the North (who feared the expansion of slavery into the newly acquired West), and the South (who wanted an expansion of their legacy). The black slaves’ population census figures, with the implied consequences, became a political weapon that led to a chain of events that upturned the status quo.
The Importance of ‘Blacks’
Of significance to this date and history is the role that blacks located in Texas played in the history of the region. While slavery was infamously initiated early by the Spanish and Mexicans, the Americans legalized the practice for their economic benefit. Driven by the quest for wealth, fortune-driven English-speaking Americans immigrated to the region to acquire some of the vast and cheap expanses of land used to cultivate cotton. The blacks toiled the vast land, from planting to harvesting, yet were roundly denied the fruits of labor in every facet of life. It was a lucrative venture for the ‘owners’ due to the cheap labor used to accomplish their goal and a grossly parasitic relationship. The combination of the quest for wealth, ownership of cheap land, desire to build a cotton empire, combined with cheap labor(slavery) and power, resulted in a booming economy. A region born of greed, oppression, and inequality became established. While the region was growing, it also became drunk with power and insatiable crave for more land. This issue maximized the political tensions between the South and the rest of the country. These tensions climaxed in the secession of South Carolina and seven other states, including Texas within one year of Abraham Lincoln’s coming into power. This net of states formed a Southern Confederacy, promoting slavery and endeavored to keep the practice. This would culminate in a Civil War between ‘Free-slaves states vs. slave states. ‘ The principal and answer to this disagreement lingers to date, several unresolved centuries later and hinges on the answer to “Do Black Lives Matter?”
Black-Americans and the Civil War
On the surface, it might appear that the civil war principally broke due to the hard-nosed stance between the free and slave states. It was merely the fallout to the unresolved question of ‘who has the power’ to rule. Unfortunately,’ black-lives’ was the case study, and the self-acclaimed superior beings could not resolve their ideological differences over the rights of fellow ‘equally’ created humans. Fellow humans that lived and existed on their land, right and standard before becoming captives. People needed to succeed; Whose labor built the empire they claim?
Significance of Juneteenth (June 19th)
This date’s origin will be incomplete without hashtags like the #Union, #WarStrategy, and #delayed justice. Under the leadership of Abraham Lincoln, a declaration was made as a strategy of war to get the Southern Confederacy to rejoin the Union. An ultimatum that meant that failure to rejoin would result in the freedom of over two million slaves in their region. The declaration also helped the Union win the Civil War as blacks in the North joined forces with the troops. While black slaves became free in other parts of America in 1863, the news of their freedom did not reach the black slaves in Texas until two years later.
Several theories exist for denying this information: the death of the news-bearer along the way, conspiracy between the North and the South for economic reasons (to enable the South to conclude their planting and harvesting season), a form of revenge by the free-born masters for their loss of power. No matter what the reason, the blacks in Texas remained slaves until the day in 1865, when the Union soldiers from the North, arrived on June 19th in Texas and broke the ‘abolishment of slave(ry)’ news.
Juneteenth a day celebrated as freedom, jubilation, thanksgiving, and justice for all black Americans, present and future. The day became officious among African American’s one year after in 1866, originally celebrated with spiritual activities like praying and communal fellowship. In 1980, the date became celebrated as an official state holiday in Texas and adopted by other African Americans in other states.
Juneteenth in New York
Over the years, June 19th has expanded in meaning, and it now represents a day to celebrate the achievements, culture, and contributions of African Americans in the United States of America. In New York State, it became a paid holiday in 2020, and starting from 2021, it will become a city-holiday, observed in public-schools and workers in New York City. It is a long-overdue proposal in a state and city where African Americans contribute immensely to its success and entity.
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