A misty, merry Juneteenth morning to you! ‘Tis a perfect day for celebrating with a book and your favorite beverage (I would say tea, but even with the dampness, it’s a little warm for tea). If you’ve never heard of Juneteenth, then you may ask yourself ‘Why is it that I’m aware of July 4th but not Juneteenth?’ Asking yourself that question gives you a launchpad toward learning the who(s), why(s), and what(s) of this day.
If you’re murky on the details, I’ll drive in the nuts and bolts of the matter. We Americans love getting things at a lowered price. The cheaper the price, the more we like it. If we didn’t like cheap, then BOGO and dollars stores wouldn’t exist. If we can get someone else to do a job that we’re too lazy to do and still make money from that someone’s labor, then all the better. The more money we can make from the deal, the harder we’re going to hold on to that deal. Enter the economical deal known as slavery. Hell, some Americans liked the deal so much, they formed an economy around it.
For some folks, this was a really good deal. If a man woke up in a pissy mood and murdered, maimed, or tortured anyone who looked at him in the wrong way, and he did not face the any repercussions from the murder or torture, then that man considered that a pretty good deal. If a man needed to increase his number of slaves, then he just sicced his son on the slave women. Quite the deal, huh? That man didn’t want anyone interfering with his game plan. Hell, he and his planter buds would just form a separate country, so that they could rape and murder and grow rich as they pleased. If they had to kill anyone who sought to end their game plan, then they didn’t mind a little killing. It just added a bit of titillation to the grind called Life. Next stop, the Civil War.
Well, Lincoln, who was calling the shots at the time, decided he wasn’t going to let a bunch of yahoos split the country into two countries. If he could cut the legs from beneath the Southern economy, then he would have a chance of keeping those pesky yahoos in check. Emancipation Proclamation, center stage. Apparently, the mamas of those planters never told them “you can’t get something for nothing.”
Some of the slave holders, however, were determined to hold on to that “something for nothing” for as long as they could. Union solders rode around the country, telling people, “That sonofabitch in that big house didn’t tell you this, but we’re going to tell you. You don’t have to work for free any longer. From now own, you tell him to load his own goddamn cotton until he forks over some money ” — or whatever crop grew in Texas. I chose Texas because from what I understand, Texas was the last state to relinquish its hold on chattel slavery*. This occurred in June, exact date unknown (although if anyone knows the exact date, I’m all ears). This brings us to Juneteenth.
Earlier I encouraged you to celebrate Juneteenth with a book. History textbooks in school have a way of forgetting to add information that would provide clues to unfolding events that happened not so long ago. If you wish to learn history, then read bios, autobiographies, and poetry written by people whom you have never met or people you are unlikely to meet. History is far more awe-inspiring or gut wrenching or baffling than anything the movie industry is likely to grind out.
Footnote: Remembering how profitable slavery had been, the South plunged into a replacement for slavery known as the penal labor system. Young African-Americans and Anglo Americans males were kidnapped, falsely accused of crimes, and sentenced to work as laborers on farms and railroads.