Juneteenth is the celebration of freedom from Slavery for those who were enslaved. It started on June 19, 1865, when General Gordon Granger made the announcement, two months after General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant. This was too late, as the people of Texas were being told of President Lincoln’s signing the Emancipation Proclamation, two years after its signing by President Lincoln.
Texans are possessive of the holiday as they were the ones deprived of their freedom for the years they had to wait. Today, Juneteenth is celebrated nationally. As some background for those of us who are not Texans, Annette Gordon Reed, in her book, ON JUNETEENTH, mentions three Industries and Three men that Texas is known for. All three men and Industries are known for their relationship to Slavery. The 20 Africans who were part of the initial introduction to the new world have now grown to 40, million African Americans.
One of the men, Stephen F. Austin is known as the Father of Texas. Ironically, Austin was born in Virginia and raised in Missouri. Austin came to Texas not to begin Cattle Ranching and hire Cowboys but to hire Mexicans and turn Texas into a western version of a Mississippi Plantation, farming cotton. The soil was fertile, the growing season was long and the Gulf of Mexico was available for shipping the harvested crop from this Southeastern area of Texas. Texas was and is also known for Ranching, Cowboys, and Oil.
Austin needed the land cleared and the Cotton planted, but Slavery was not favored during this period in 1836. Texas rebelled against Mexico and succeeded in establishing the Independent Republic of Texas with slaves being free and acceptable. Texas now had its’ dream economy of a cotton-based slave economy and joined other Southern states along with its’ Southern and Confederate brother states.
The dream was short-lived, as Texas joined the Confederate States in 1845 (as Great Britain outlawed Slavery in 1833). By 1865 the Confederacy was defeated and re-joined the Union which had abandoned Slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation.
Texas was not kind to Blacks, as evidenced by the case of Bob White, in Livingstone, Texas, who was accused of raping Ruby Cochran, a white woman. He was arrested, by the Texas Rangers, placed in a lineup, taken into the woods, and chained to a tree. They beat him and threatened to kill him if he didn’t confess. He was given a confession to sign and sentenced to death. He had no lawyer and was convicted but got a new trial. The case went to the Supreme Court. Before a verdict was made, he was killed. During the trial Ruby Cochran’s husband, Dude Cochran, got up, went to the front of the courtroom and shot the defendant in the head. He then handed the gun to the prosecutor with the jury and judge watching. He was released on $500 bail. The spectators applauded when Cochran was found not guilty after his trial. Other examples tell of whites picnicking during trials of black men. Often evidence proved the sex between the parties was consensual.
The story of Juneteenth is not often told except it is the only day set aside to celebrate freedom. It marks a sad day that there is no law giving Blacks the right to vote and there is no law against lynching in this Country. A recent statement by Laker Coach, Doc Rivers remains true. The statement is something to the effect like: “We love this Country, but this Country does not love us.” How Sad. After over 400 years of free labor, we are still begging and demonstrating, and subjected to beatings, arrest, and dying for the right to vote.
ENJOY THE DAY TO THE FULLEST!