Why I Celebrate Juneteenth - And Response (2)

  • Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Throughout history slavery has existed. It’s never been right. In the case of Africans who were captured by other Africans and sold to slave traders, many ending up in the USA . It's hard for me to wrap my head around how this could happen. We are a country founded on religious freedom, yet we could think it was right to own people as slaves?

On Sept. 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued by executive order the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, to become effective Jan. 1, 1863, and he did it while the American Civil War was still going on. It was Proclamation 95 and was supported by the Republicans in Congress and even a few Democrats. President Lincoln was the founder of the Republican Party and is celebrated every year.

Even though all slaves were to become free on Jan. 1, the slaves in Texas were not aware of the Proclamation 95 until Major General Gordon Granger, along with his troop of Calvary, rode into Galveston, Texas on June 19,1865 to free the last of the slaves. That’s just shy of two and one half years after Proclamation 95 went into effect.

It was originally called Jubilee Day. Dr. Opal Lee, an activist and retired teacher, is said to be the originator of the name change to Juneteenth. There is so much bad history that didn’t change a lot for African Americans, other than slavery ending.

The first example that is glaring to me is what happened to Bass Reeves, one of the greatest Deputy US Marshals of the “Wild West”, when he lost his position because African Americans could not hold such an office. He spoke the languages of five civilized tribes = the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole and Creek.

The second example can be seen at the south end of the Walnut Street Bridge, where the monument recognizing the lynching of Ed Johnson on March 19, 1906 stands. It’s very difficult to stand at that memorial and read the different plaques and not have tears.

I could go on and on, but my point is this: June 19, 1865 was the official end of slavery in the USA. That is a day that is worth all of us celebrating.

J. Pat Williams

* * *

Wow! J. That's a complete 360 from your usual on such subjects. Or is it a 180? 90? 45? Whatever. Hopefully, it's legit, sincere and there are no angles, subtle dog whistles or barbs involved.

However, there are a number of things in need of correction that keeps floating around on the subject, and not just by you. But others even, who should know better.

1. Yes, originally Africans were transported for slave labors in the Americas. However, within time, very few actually came from Africa. They instead came from breeding plantations in America, that bred their slaves for the sole purpose of selling them to other plantations, brothels, saloons; to work in the fields and factories, often performing the more dangerous and deadly tasks.

2. Yes, Africans did sell fellow Africans into slavery. In Europe, well through the 17th century, English children were basically considered a commodity, to be bartered and sold often to settle debts (there's a story I have personal knowledge of I'll share at the end of this). For Africa it was based on tribal differences of a people from different tribes, clashing and at war with one another. No more than Europe's clashing during WWII, killing fellow Europeans. Example would be the Katyn massacre where thousands of Polish military officers were slaughtered and buried in mass graves. One side blaming the other. The truth only coming out over 80 years later. It's the ultimate tragedy of human nature.

The Emancipation Proclamation didn't free slaves in all states. Only those states that rebelled against the Union. Even so, acts of slavery continued to exist well into the 20th century. At age 11, my father-in-law's parents owned a farm in Arkansas during the early 1900s. He sometimes hopped freight trains running along the rear of the property to travel into nearby small towns and many often traveled in those days. On one of those occasions, he was removed from the train by a local sheriff in one of those towns he was passing through, taken into West Texas and forced to work under slave like conditions. He managed to escape after about two years with the help of a white woman who sometimes visited the plantation, after convincing her he did indeed have a family in Hope, Ar. who owned a farm. He witnessed other young children working on that plantation in West Texas too. Some perhaps orphans? Run-aways?

Two of my great-uncles on my mother's side of the family, not sure if they were the two who served in the military, worked as day laborers. Back in the day that's where men, some women too, stood on the side of the road or in a lot, and someone in need of abled bodies willing to work for a day's pay would come along and offer work. Permanent jobs weren't always easy to come by for many blacks then, as well as poor whites too. Hence, the term day-labor. On one particular occasion an uncle was picked up and taken somewhere down in Florida, where he was forced to work alongside others on some island of some kind surrounded with alligators. The family searched and searched for him, as my great-aunt, his sister, once told the story. He wasn't the type to just walk away and abandon family. He too somehow escaped and made it back to Chattanooga. How he was able to escape, he never told anyone. At the time he was considered "mulatto." A term popular in those days, but later fell out of favor and viewed as derogatory.

Now the story in #2 I promised you. The story of the young English lad, indentured servant and the young female slave. This is not a love story nor a Romeo/Juliet story. It's the story of the tragedy of profound proportions of human nature.

Most people may not be aware, in many ways white indentured servants weren't treated much better than the black slaves. They often shared the same quarters, or lived nearby in separate quarters. You're not likely to find the story in any books to my or anyone's knowledge. Young people then were no different than young people today. When those hormones kick in, they kick-in! The English lad, indentured servant got the master of the plantation most prized female slave he'd been saving for breeding or, perhaps, for himself, knocked up. When the plantation "master" threatened all the other male slaves/indentured servants if no one confessed all would suffer, the young English lad indentured servant stepped forward and admitted to being the guilty party. That young English lad, indentured servant, was hanged as a warning and to send a message to all the other male slaves and indentured servants to not mess with the "master's" female property. Surely, that young lad's genes were passed on down through the generations and family on both sides likely exist today who don't know the tragic of a great-great-great-multiple great-grandpa.

Finally, J. Another unknown is that many wealthy plantation owners rarely or never visited their plantations. Many actually lived noble, upstanding lives with their families in neutral and slave free states, leaving the daily operations up to their overseers. One of the largest plantations in the south, the Butler plantation I believe, the son, one of two, who inherited the plantation from their father only occasionally took trips back to the southern plantation. The other brother took his part of inheritance and gambled it away I believe, according to history. The son who took over the plantation and the family lived in a slave free state. Pennsylvania I believe. Which had become slave free by the 1840s? Although the Pennsylvania Act passed in 1780, it was only meant to gradually free the slaves.

Well, enough of that! Just a little history lesson of the not so glorified kind, most probably would never get to know. As we Boomers get older, and lots of history we learned or have personal knowledge of is disappearing. Allowing someone to come along and rewrite their version of. Such is life and the way of human nature.

I apologize, a little/not a lot, for being so long winded and for any typos or grammatical errors. This is just too much for even me to go back and proofread. Happy Juneteenth!

Brenda Washington

* * *

In response to J. Pat and Brenda's exchange, I believe that it is a perfect example of why race relations are deteriorating after decades of improvement. J. Pat Williams comments fairly regularly about current state of affairs of youth and crime and assorted topics in none of which I have seen any mention of race, but Brenda likes to imply that he is disparaging blacks when I haven't seen it, even despite the individuals involved in a particular incident might be black. Then he tries to promote the celebration of emancipation only to be accused of possibly having an ulterior motive.

I enjoy reading Brenda's posts, she has seen a lot of history and has some interesting points of view to impart to the rest of us. But this is a little much. I believe 99.9 percent of people think slavery was and is a terrible thing. I also believe 99.9 of people alive today in America had no involvement on either side. Let's move on.

Sam Lewallen

Opinion
Not Related, But Keep Digging
  • 7/12/2024

I've been asked if there's any relation to the Christopher Washington in the fentanyl charge story on the Chattanoogan and my family. There are only two Washingtons living in the Chattanooga ... more

A House Joint Resolution We Should All Be Made Aware Of
  • 7/12/2024

A wonderful Joint Resolution was passed by the Tennessee House of Representatives calling for an outpouring of prayer in the state in the month of July. I only recently learned of this resolution ... more

Send Your Opinions To Chattanoogan.com; Include Your Full Name, Address, Phone Number For Verification
  • 7/12/2024

We welcome your opinions at Chattanoogan.com. Email to news@chattanoogan.com . We require your real first and last name and contact information. This includes your home address and phone ... more