Tuesday, June 20, 2006
History of Juneteenth
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 slave masters 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 or neither could be true. For whatever the reason, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.
Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I knew nothing of this history until the arrival of southern homefront workers who migrated from Texas during World War II. I'm sure that many know nothing about it, even now. Just one of the ways that our collective memories of the past -- as represented in history books -- has failed to truly educate us in ways that might illustrate the heroism of ordinary black people who have remained the conscience of the nation and the carriers of the American Dream -- even when we were denied the realization of it.