In Texas, African-Americans have long celebrated Juneteenth as a pivotal point in our history. It commemorates the day, June 19, 1865, when Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger read aloud Executive Order No. 3 in Galveston, Texas. He gave notice to Texas that all slaves were free—declaring “an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves…”
A contemporary newspaper account says the newly freed slaves held an impromptu parade. “Notwithstanding the storm some eight hundred or a thousand men, women and children took part in the demonstration. The procession was orderly and creditable to those participating in it,” the newspaper reported.
This is the story of Juneteenth—though this year, a very different narrative is being pushed. For many proponents of Critical Race Theory, the only story is that slavery existed. The New York Times’ 1619 Project aims to retell the story of our nation with slavery as the pivot point—the “true founding” of the United States of America.
In fact, this narrative is so pervasive that a majority of college students in one study believed that slavery was a uniquely American institution—not a universal fact that existed throughout all of recorded history.
“Most of my students could not tell me anything meaningful about slavery outside of America,” Professor Duke Pesta reported. “They are convinced that slavery was an American problem that more or less ended with the Civil War, and they are very fuzzy about the history of slavery prior to the Colonial era. Their entire education about slavery was confined to America.”
But the facts are very different.
“In fact, slavery was a mundane fact in most human civilizations, neither questioned nor much thought about,” writes Kay S. Hymowitz in City Journal. “It appeared in the earliest settlements of Sumer, Babylonia, China, and Egypt, and it continues in many parts of the world to this day.”
America was unique in that it fought a bloody Civil War to end slavery.
“Other parts of the world remained wedded to slavery well into the twentieth century: slavery was legal in Ethiopia until 1942, in Saudi Arabia until 1963, and Mauritania until 1980,” Hymowitz adds.
Juneteenth didn’t mark the end to thes struggle of African-Americans in the United States. Texas and Galveston itself would be under oppressive Jim Crow laws for another century.
Yet Juneteenth is truly worth celebrating. As the late state Rep. Al Edwards said when the Texas Legislature made it an official holiday in 1980, “I feel that for a state which not too long ago celebrated Jefferson Davis’ birthday, now to celebrated the end of slavery, means that many have now seen the light of someone’s candle. This is a holiday not just for Black Texans but for all Texans.”
Critical Race theorists and the 1619 Project say that slavery is central to the story of America. Juneteenth shows there’s much, much more to the story.