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June 18, 2021


I think there are several ironies to point out, but for me, one that stands out is that juneteeth can be seen as a holiday that began in Texas, and spread out thru the rest of the country.

If one was starting from scratch, the date of the Emancipation Proclamation would make more sense. Not the effective date (1 January), since that's already a holiday. But the issue date (22 September) might work. It's close to Labor Day, but then June 19 is pretty close to 4 July.

Quibbles over the date aside, what's interesting is how bipartisan the vote in Congress was. Makes one think that a very different outcome might have come from picking a date of . . . Election Day. Less bipartisan enthusiasm for making that a Federal holiday.

I'm sure there will be some who disagree, but I can't help thinking that dating it from the Emancipation Proclamation doesn't work because of the history of the proclamation (it only outlawed slavery in Confederate areas) and it promotes the idea that a date that revolves around white people should be celebrated. Hey, we *gave* you freedom, aren't you the ingrateful ones!

I imagine that making it close to Labor Day would have some believe that it is all a communist plot...

I can't help thinking that dating it from the Emancipation Proclamation doesn't work because of the history of the proclamation

But it's already about the Emancipation Proclamation. June 19th is the date that word of it reached Galveston.

June 19th is the date that *the federal government forced Galveston to comply with the law.*


If Galveston’s Blacks already knew they were free, obviously so too did their slaveholders, who nonetheless kept them in bondage — not by cunning or deceit or ignorance, but by the brute force and tactics of dehumanizing torture they had been using for 200 years.

Gen. Granger didn’t bring liberation by words on a scroll but by troops with fixed bayonets.

Juneteenth is a more fitting national holiday in my mind than the date of the Emancipation Proclamation because it reminds us that there are no rights without the actual enforcement of those rights.

Nous is much more succinct, and I agree with what he says. I'd also raise a few more points. Celebrating on the day the EP was signed gives rise to opening sentences like this

"Lincoln, with a stroke of his pen, freed the slaves*"

(*slaves being those only in territories in rebellion, so it wasn't really freeing the slaves in any places where the Union forces were in control. This product is meant for educational purposes only. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. Void where prohibited. Some assembly required. Actual historical memory not included. Other restrictions may apply.)

Furthermore, there are no groups, African-American or otherwise, celebrating EP day, while Juneteenth has a history among the black community. Making it on EP signing is a little like telling someone that their birthday isn't on the day they said it was, it is on another day.

I assume the idea of having an EP day is because when Lincoln signed it has some primacy over when it was actually enforced. Certainly, Western society has a fetish about that, (witness the Magna Carta) and that single minded concern about the 'correct' date is parodied here by Monty Python's novel writing sketch, treating Thomas Hardy's writing Return of the Native like it were a sports fixture.


Even if you do want to argue that it was when Lincoln dipped his pen in the inkwell, the EP was written before that, and Lincoln hesitated to sign it until a major Union victory would make it seem like it wasn't just a sop to British anti-slavery forces. Given that history, the 'actual' celebration is probably better.

It's also probably better to be in the summer when it won't run afoul of school calendars. Happening during summer vacation (though I've read that it is disappearing) prevents various groups from making it (or opposing it) a value signaling event.

I've mentioned this before, but my university only started giving the 4th of July off while I was there, and for the longest time, the school was not willing to celebrate a 'goddamn Yankee holiday'.

I do agree with wj that it is telling that they can do Juneteeth, but can't get a election day holiday through, but I'm not sure who's fault that is.

Originally putting election day on a Tuesday was in deference to religious objections.
Less because voting would break the Sabbath but because many rural voters had to travel long distances to polling locations so they would be unable to attend church at home.
Now it's just convenient to keep participation low.

Quibbles over the date aside, what's interesting is how bipartisan the vote in Congress was. Makes one think that a very different outcome might have come from picking a date of . . . Election Day. Less bipartisan enthusiasm for making that a Federal holiday.

Most of the proposals for Election Day are very different from a "federal holiday." On federal holidays, non-essential federal offices are closed and the workers don't come in. For everyone else, it's just another day. States make their own decisions about whether they will have a corresponding state holiday. Private businesses make their own decisions.

What is usually proposed for Election Day is that all non-essential businesses will be closed and the employees will go vote instead of going to work.

there are no rights without the actual enforcement of those rights

How true this is, nous, and as well as its application to Juneteenth, it is also worth relating to McKinney's second Biden quotation in the Good day, Bad day thread, (We don’t derive our rights from the government; we possess them because we’re born—period. And we yield them to a government.) which is why I am also copying this in to the comments on that thread. Who will enforce those rights, if not a government?

Which is why the next line is "to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men" (Sorry, libertarians.)

(Sorry, [some] libertarians.)

wj: I didn't know that! Of course, it makes perfect sense...

Right, Charles. I should have said: "Sorry extreme libertarians."

The conundrum is that a government that can enforce rights can also violate them.

Humans are full of conundrums. You might even say it’s a baked-in part of the human condition.

The conundrum is that a government that can enforce rights can also violate them.

Which is no different than entering into any other collective agreement. Either you have others who are willing to enforce rights for you (confederations, alliances, tribes, cliques, congregations, etc.) or you have no rights per se and are just grabbing what you can hold onto through whatever means you have.

You really should spend some time reading about medieval Iceland, Charles (assuming you have not yet done so). It's a good test case for working through all these philosophical ideas and seeing how they actually work in a society where resources are constrained and politics (big and small P) are fraught.

Just an addendum to Juneteenth, a historian friend of mine posted this on FB

June 19th, 1865 was not the end of legal slavery in the United States. That wouldn't come until the ratification of the 13th Amendment on December 6, when the last legal slaves, in Kentucky and Virginia, were freed. June 19th was really the defeat of the last Confederate State, Texas, and the effective end of the rebellion, although the last Confederate general, Stand Watie of the Cherokee Nation, wouldn't surrender for four more days, and the last Confederate armed force, a pirate ship in the northern Pacific, wouldn't surrender for several more months.

Not sure if I agree that Juneteeth is the equivalent of VC (Victory over the Confederacy) day, but it's always nice to know historical facts.

It does provide a bit of amusement. What with all those fans of the Lost Cause in Congress voting to make the date of the final defeat of the last Confederate state into a national holiday.

I suppose that's the sort of thing that can happen, when you reject history, expertise, etc.

Okay, so here is a really interesting article about US historical narratives from Harper's that centers on a lot of the issues that we've been circling around in our discussion of origins and genealogies of change. Lots of good critical perspective on both the 1619 Project and the backlash against it:


Whatever birthday it chooses to commemorate, origins-obsessed history faces a debilitating intellectual problem: it cannot explain historical change. A triumphant celebration of 1776 as the basis of American freedom stumbles right out of the gate—it cannot describe how this splendid new republic quickly became the largest slave society in the Western Hemisphere. A history that draws a straight line forward from 1619, meanwhile, cannot explain how that same American slave society was shattered at the peak of its wealth and power—a process of emancipation whose rapidity, violence, and radicalism have been rivaled only by the Haitian Revolution. This approach to the past, as the scholar Steven Hahn has written, risks becoming a “history without history,” deaf to shifts in power both loud and quiet. Thus it offers no way to understand either the fall of Richmond in 1865 or its symbolic echo in 2020, when an antiracist coalition emerged whose cultural and institutional strength reflects undeniable changes in American society. The 1619 Project may help explain the “forces that led to the election of Donald Trump,” as the Times executive editor Dean Baquet described its mission, but it cannot fathom the forces that led to Trump’s defeat—let alone its own Pulitzer Prize.

All of which reminds me once again of my assertion that history is a SELECT statement from the living and constantly evolving database of The Archive of history, subject to similar observational distortions as Heisenberg noted in electrons. A history observed is a historical trajectory changed.

i know i've mentioned it here before, but 1490 is eye-opening. the history of the Americas that USians are taught is truly ridiculous.

The last slaves in the United States were freed on December 6, 1865 when the 13th Amendment was ratified. A December 6 holiday would risk being overshadowed by Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. The Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the bulk of the slaves, was signed on January 1 and that date is already a holiday. So Juneteenth it is.

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