Happy Juneteenth from a Land Where Old Times Are Forgotten

Categories: Schutze

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Interesting story in The Dallas Morning News today by Selwyn Crawford about growing national popularity for Juneteenth, a holiday originally thought to be strictly a Texas thing. Juneteenth marks the official emancipation of slaves in Texas in 1865, two years after Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.

My family just visited a part of the Old South, where we toured the home of a slave owner. Slavery was described by our tour guide in terms I took as morally neutral. The spiel focused on the wealth of the slave owner. In mid-19th century, steamy hot, coastal South Carolina, he could afford imported ice for his wine. The slave quarters were off-limits to visitors.

Crawford's piece accurately describes a debate over Juneteenth as strictly a black thing. Should Juneteenth be the big holiday, or does that overshadow and diminish the importance of Lincoln's historic proclamation?

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I never have visited the Nazi death camps in Europe. I will someday. But I have read about the tours and watched films of them. My unmistakable impression of those tours is that the words spoken and sights seen all convey a mood of powerful solemnity, grief and, yes, horror, nothing like the tight-lipped neutrality I picked up in our tour of a slave owner's grand home.

As I say, the debate over Juneteenth is interesting. But it's black. For me, the question of how black people feel about slavery is less interesting than how white people feel. That's what I want to know.

On my Kindle some time ago I downloaded an abridged edition of Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery, compiled from 2,300 first-person accounts of former slaves interviewed in the 1930s by writers working for the U.S. Works Progress Administration under the direction of the famous folklorist Alan Lomax. I used that archive a long time ago for a book I was working on. I put it on my Kindle a year or so ago because it was a free download.

The slave narratives are compelling and convincing because the accounts are widely varied. Some former slaves describe horrific events and circumstances, but some say their treatment wasn't all that bad. And the narratives also are convincing because certain themes are incredibly consistent across 2,300 interviews.

One of those consistent themes is a particular kind of depravity that owning another human being can bring about in the so-called owner. After all, it was this depravity of whites that inspired the first white abolitionists. The Grimke sisters of South Carolina, for example, were driven to the cause by the animalistic cruelty of whites that they witnessed on their own family plantation.

You could say that the Grimke sisters were driven more by their concern for the white soul than compassion for the slaves. Maybe that's what I found missing in that house we toured. Anyway, here is an excerpt from the narratives, describing an event not unlike many others remembered by the former slaves:

I's Aunt Mary, all right, but you all has to 'scuse me if I don't talk so good, 'cause I's been feelin' poorly for a spell and I ain't so young no more. Law me, when I think back what I used to do, and now it's all I can do to hobble 'round a little. Why Miss Olivia, my mistress, used to put a glass plumb full of water on my head and then have me waltz 'round the room, and I'd dance so smoothlike, I don't spill nary drap.

That was in St. Louis, where I's born. You see, my mamma belong to old Williams Cleveland and old Polly Cleveland, and they was the meanest two white folks what ever lived, 'cause they was allus beatin' on their slaves. I know, 'cause mamma told me, and I hears about it other places, and besides old Polly, she was a Polly devil if there ever was one, and she whipped my little sister what was only 9 months old and jes' a baby to death. She come and took the diaper offen my little sister and whipped till the blood jes' ran -- jes' cause she cry like all babies do, and it kilt my sister. I never forgot that, but I sot some even with that old Polly devil, and it's this-a-way.

You see, I's 'bout 10 year old and I belongs to Miss Olivia, what was that old Polly's daughter, and one day old Polly devil comes to where Miss Olivia lives after she marries, and tries to give me a lick out in the yard, and I picks up a rock 'bout as big as half your fist and hits her right in the eye and busted the eyeball, and tells her that's for whippin' my baby sister to death. You could hear her holler for five miles, but Miss Olivia, when I tells her, says, 'Well, I guess mamma has larnt her lesson at last.'

One wonders.


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30 comments
newmexafrica
newmexafrica

Happy Juneteenth, Jim!

Child Shot As East Side Festival Erupts In Gunfire

Saturday June 15, 2013 7:13 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A teenager was arrested and charged with shooting a child at a Columbus festival.

The child was shot Saturday evening at a Franklin Park shelter during the Juneteenth Festival.

Medics rushed the boy, age 10, to Nationwide Children's Hospital. No information about the victim's condition was immediately released, other than he had been stabilized.

Police were searching for at least two people believed to have been involved in the shooting shortly after 7 p.m.

Officers took a 15-year-old boy into custody later that evening and charged him with felonious assault.

http://www.10tv.com/content/stories/2013/06/15/columbus-franklin-park-child-shot-at-juneteenth-festival.html

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Undercover Officers Tipped Off To Possible Continuing Violence After Juneteenth Festival Shooting

Monday June 17, 2013

http://www.10tv.com/content/stories/2013/06/17/columbus-undercover-officers-tipped-off-to-possible-continuing-violence-after-junteenth-festival-shooting.html


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Juneteenth festival ends with several arrests

Jun 19, 2013

"We know there's been some violence and things that have happened, but we saw today that we can come together and get along with one another, and we don't have to deal with this nonsense that's been happening in our community," said Weddle.

http://www.wisn.com/news/south-east-wisconsin/milwaukee/juneteenth-milwaukee-festival-ends-with-several-arrests/-/10148890/20641334/-/u78wkkz/-/index.html

PerryMoore
PerryMoore

Oh, so that's why the maid didn't show up for work yesterday. No, it's not a racist joke--it's a joke about racists.

scottie1620
scottie1620

I ate some watermelon to celebrate Juneteenth!

Obummer
Obummer

Yo as long as Sandra Fluke gets her free birf control pills what diff' do it make?

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Juneteenth is beginning to be celebrated as a national holiday as Texas is about the only former slave state that commemorates the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation.


Prior to the Civil War, Texas was heavily divided on the secession issue.  Sam Houston vigorously opposed secession and was driven into seclusion when the Legislature voted for secession.  The secession movement was led by the slave owners who held the political and economic power in Texas at that time.


To show how racist some portions of Texas had been, the citizens of Anderson  refused to allow the the railroad to build through their town.  Anderson is the county seat of Grimes County.  The thinking of the citizens of Anderson County for refusing to allow the railroad to build through their town was because they thought that the steam engines would frighten their "Negroes" to the point that they would run away in terror.  As a result, the railroad built through the neighboring town of Navasota which is now the largest city in Grimes County. 


Grimes County was also the county in Texas that had the highest number of slaves prior to the Civil War.


Juneteenth is a uniquely Texan day and should remain so.

CornyDoggy
CornyDoggy

Where are the normal DO comment board racists?  Or do they like to forget about this part of American history?

roo_ster
roo_ster

"You could say that the Grimke sisters were driven more by their concern for the white soul than compassion for the slaves."

Maybe so.  Reminds me of Alexis De Tocqueville's 1830 comparisons of the sides of the Ohio river.  In Ohio, free men worked industriously and made a better place for all.  In Kentucky, sloth and abject poverty reigned. 


Also:

'Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."' ----A Lincoln

Pretty much came true, what with 600K+ dead on both sides.  I would say that not only did America pay in due measure, blood for blood, but that our efforts to eradicate the slave trade with the British mark us as exceptional. Slavery was not a "Peculiar American Institution," but abolition of it was. Think that such places as Saudi Arabia "outlawed" slavery in the 1960s and the slave trade continues in Africa and some arab countries. 

if6were9
if6were9

All men, women and children are to be free! That is unless "they" are irish, then..........

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

The tour guide was probably working minimum wage spouting words out of a history book.  Go to Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, Valley Forge - It is no different.  It is not a slavery deal.  It is that for practically everyone, the context and background of events before WW2 are a blur.  They probably only know who we fought in WW2 because they saw it in a lot of movies.  It is not a black/white thing.  It is don't know, don't care thing.  If you want anything more from this crowd than Slavery Bad, Freedom Good, you are too late.

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

All i know is the bbq, music and friends were awesome last Saturday at the Juneteenth celebration in J W Ray Park.

James080
James080

Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in the Confederate States of America. Slaves in states not in rebellion against the US remained chattel. Maybe that's why black Americans aren't enamored with the Emancipation Proclamation.

Obummer
Obummer

@scottie1620 

Yo eyez saws ‘em at Tom Thumb buts eyez could not dig' how ta tax ‘em.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@roo_ster Google when countries gave up slavery.  The only thing unique was our sluggishness in banning slavery.  Your post is a self deception.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@James080 you have it backwards.  The CSA was not under the USA at the time of the EP.  Lincoln had no authority over states in rebellion. 

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@James080

Lincoln lacked any power to free slaves in slave states that were not in rebellion.

As for the comment "black Americans aren't enamored with the Emancipation Proclamation", I'm comfortable in stating that black Americans are "enamored" with Abraham Lincoln. and for good reason.

It is easy to see that without the EP there could very well not have been victory by the North and the EP hastened the adoption of the 13th Amendment.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@James080

I understand that universal freedom came slowly, involving military action and amendment of the constitution. But where on earth would you get the idea that the slaves were not pleased by the Emancipation Proclamation, which was the first step? So you think they preferred the philosophy of the traitors like Jeff Davis, who said, "African slavery, as it exists in the United States, is a moral, a social, and a political blessing." Seems unlikely, James.

Tom434
Tom434

@James080 It also took the Union  army to enforce the Proclamation,  Until General Granger landed at Galveston on June 19, 1865 there were no troops in Texas to enforce the Proclamation

roo_ster
roo_ster

@scottindallas @roo_ster Baloney.  Over a period of a few decades, slavery was ended throughout most the world, with outliers at the front & rear of the era of emancipation.  America was in the middle of the pack.  Also, how many of those countries fought a war over it?  In how many of those countries did the common man still live largely as slaves, despite the highflown verbiage?

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@mavdog I wonder how many Blacks felt really emancipated after Jim Crow laws in the South left them little better off than slaves.

pak152
pak152

@JimSX"the philosophy of the traitors like Jeff Davis" statements like this one is a reason why the War will never end. People in the South didn't see him as a traitor just as Lee, Jackson and other leaders weren't traitors. they saw their first loyalty to their home state and not to the federal republic.

James080
James080

@JimSX 

"So you think....."

Thank you for expressing my opinion for me, but next time, try to express an opinion I actually hold. 

 "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that."-Abraham Lincoln

pak152
pak152

@Tom434 @James080 that is usually the case with many proclamations. you have to be in control of the land to make the proclamation effective.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

Pak. don't forget that the Dems of that day are the GOP of today.  Or did you forget about the Southern Strategy? 

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz

oh come on, seriously? "little better off than slaves"???? good grief.

see the above commentary by Aunt Mary and tell me that post EP/13th Amendment black Americans were "little better off than slaves".

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