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  • Writer's pictureDale Hanks

Change the History, Control the Present

By now, everyone knows that Congress enacted into law a new federal holiday known as “Juneteenth” to be celebrated each year on June 19th.

I must confess and am somewhat ashamed that I didn’t know anything about Juneteenth, other than it kept showing up on my Apple iPhone calendar in previous years. I thought it was just maybe another obscure made-up celebration.

Apparently, most Americans didn’t know much about it, either. But when I researched Juneteenth, I learned that it is most definitely a day to be celebrated. The holiday commemorates the liberation of American slaves; and that, to me, is a perfect reason for a national holiday.

The history surrounding Juneteenth is fascinating. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863 declaring slaves held in Confederate States free. But news in 1865 traveled slowly. For slaves, it didn’t matter that the Proclamation said they were free--they weren’t free until they were actually free. In territories where the dying vestiges of the Confederacy still existed, they weren’t freed until much later. Texas was the westernmost of the Confederate territories and it wasn’t until Union Army General Gordon Granger, who was given military command over the District of Texas, rode into Galveston on June 19, 1865, and announced, “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” This was quite a joyful celebration, and Texas free men celebrated the anniversary of that day every year. It has been called Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, or Juneteenth (a combining of “June” and “nineteenth”).

But something is nagging at me, and I'm suspicious about the timing of this newly enacted holiday.

Just when our country is struggling with a racial divide stemming from the George Floyd riots, debate over critical race theory, Black Lives Matter controversies, and accusations of white supremacy, it feels like this holiday is being hijacked to separate and divide us even further.

Juneteenth is being used by the media and left-wing activists to yet again, declare that America is a flawed, racist country. The Department of Homeland Security and President Joe Biden have even declared white supremacy as, “the most persistent and lethal threat within the U.S.”

Many are trying to force a rewriting of history to further fan the flames of this divide.

Grammy Award-winning singer Macy Gray, in an op-ed this past weekend, opined that we should redesign the American flag to reflect all of us. She proposes that the white stripes (which, according to the Smithsonian, represent purity) should now be off-white because, “America is beautiful. Pure, it ain’t. It is broken and in pieces.” She further argues that the white stars should be the colors of all of us as reflected on the “melanin scale."

But, wasn’t the Civil War fought by white people against white people to free black people? Over 360,000 Union soldiers died fighting for freedom under this same flag that Macy Gray says we now need to change.

Juneteenth is also being proposed by some as a reason to eliminate celebrating the 4th of July.

According to an opinion piece in the Chicago Defender, a staff writer suggests that we should not celebrate our country's Independence Day any longer; since, in 1776, not all of our countrymen were free.

The city of Evanston, Illinois, like many other cities, celebrated this Juneteenth with festivities and a parade and will also promote Pride month with a Pride parade on June 26th. Those celebrations were given the green light; but city officials cancelled the July 4th parade and the fireworks based on concern for public health due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Seriously??

What is unsettling about all of this for me is that the original message of freedom, liberation and community celebrated by those freed slaves and their descendants has been co-opted for partisan purposes by progressive activists’ intent on making America atone for its slavery sin. This hypocrisy and corruption of the true history of Juneteenth is breathtaking.

Sen. Ed Markey, (D) Massachusetts named the bill, “Juneteenth National Independence Day.” The sad part of the story is that in Markey’s statement touting the bill, he declares that the legislation is a “clarion call” to “recommit ourselves to passing substantive voting rights reform to ensure that every person’s voice is heard in our electoral system. We must ensure police accountability and put an end to the cycle of brutality and murder by law enforcement. We must put economic justice, health justice, and environmental justice at the center of all our work.”

It sure seems to me that the intent behind this bill is the exact opposite of the spirit of freedom and community that was the original reason descendants of slaves celebrated the day for over a century and a half. It has become a tool to promote a left-leaning agenda and a wedge to widen the racial divide.

Juneteenth should be a call for unity, NOT division. We should be celebrating, not only the freedom of the slaves, but also those who helped free them: the Quakers and other abolitionists both black and white, the people of the Underground Railroad who risked their lives providing safe passage and shelter to slaves escaping to free states and Canada, and the soldiers and civilians who gave their lives to end slavery.

America is not defined by slavery. America is defined by freedom…for all.

UPDATE: The attached link is an interesting follow-up as to why it is SO important for the Democrat Party to make Juneteenth a national holiday. Their messaging has always promoted the narrative that THEY are the caring benevolent champions of African Americans, Read here to see the ACTUAL history.

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