In the first part of this article, we discussed the causes of the American Revolution, and the impact it had on the majority of the population, and most specifically, African slaves, and the fact that things may have been even worse for them, due to the Revolution, and that they may have been better off if the Colonies had remained with Britain. So the Fourth of July does not seem like something to celebrate. What is worth celebrating?
Most people think Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves I 1862, but that’s not true. The Proclamation was actually just a tool (trick) of war. Lincoln was hoping that slaves would hear about it and rise up against their owners—helping the North’s battle plan. That didn’t happen. And it should be noted that the Proclamation didn’t even apply to non-Confederate states, such as Maryland. As long as you were not at war with The United States, we thought it was just fine to “own” other people.
Even so, the Proclamation gave Union soldiers the right and duty to free Slaves in places where the South was defeated. That being the case, September 22 may be a day to celebrate as “Independence Day” for Black people. However, it was really just a gesture for several years, and such promise are sometimes not honored.
This sort of tool-of-war has been used many times. For instance, during the First World War, Britain suggested the formation of a State of Israel in the 1917 Balfour Declaration
—when only ten percent of Palestine was Jewish. Clearly, Britain had no ability to impose the State—and when the war was over, they took control of the area as a colony through the Second World War, but made no effort to make good on the original Declaration. The purpose had been to sow havoc in an area controlled by Britain’s adversary—the Ottoman Empire—which was Muslim: A hollow gesture for the purpose of PR advantage.
Back to the U.S., it was not until the end of our Civil War (more than 3/4 of a century after the Founding) that Africans became African-Americans. That is what Black people celebrate as their “Independence Day,” because nothing changed for them after 1776 or 1784—or even 1789–when the Constitution legally excluded them. They clearly were not “Americans” before that.
That brings us to Juneteenth (June 19). It is the celebration of the end of slavery, when the war finally ended in Texas: Also known as “Freedom Day,” “Cel-Liberation Day, “ or “The Black Fourth of July,” yet, it is not even a national holiday.
“Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.”
General Order Number Three reads as follows: “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”
40 ACRES AND A MULE
After the Civil War, slaves were each promised “40 acres and a mule,” so that they could begin a truly independent life. A Freedmen’s Bureau was even set up to execute the noble promise.
However, after Lincoln died, southerner-president Andrew Johnson rescinded any such compensation for the freed slaves. They were on their own, and many continued as “slaves” under a different name. That broken promise, along with the many decades of inhumane subjugated, and having their labor stolen, is the basis of the “reparations” claim.
JIM CROW, REDLINING
Wealth is something that grows, generation to generation, largely from ownership of property, which increases in value. The freed slaves were left with nothing. Later, “Jim Crow” laws kept Black people down even more, and “Redlining,” by banks, made sure that most Black families would never own property, and therefore, could never build wealth for their heirs.
“WHY DO THEY BURN THEIR OWN NEIGHBORHOODS?”
White people often ask why, when Black people riot, they “burn down their own neighborhood.” One obvious reason is that they’d quickly be killed, charging into white-owned areas. More importantly, as in this video, Kimberly Jones pointedly points out that the people who live in poor areas don’t own anything. They have “nothing to lose.” It’s not “their” neighborhood.
They are burning down property they see as exploiting them. The video is an amazing six minutes of explanation—if you really want to understand. Here’s a shorter version if you don’t have the patience, but you’ll lose the power of the argument. Both include the strong ending, “and they are lucky that what Black people are looking for is equality—and not revenge.”
WHITES STAMP OUT BLACK WEALTH
As she notes, there has been more than one example of “uppity” Black people working together to build wealth for themselves, only to have white people snuffed it out, such as in Rosewood, Fl. “Before the massacre, the town of Rosewood had been a quiet, primarily black, self-sufficient whistle stop on the Seaboard Air Line Railway.” Also, the “Black Wall Street Massacre,” in Tulsa, OK.
In the latter, “The attack, carried out on the ground and from private aircraft, destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the district—at that time, the wealthiest black community in the United States, known as ‘Black Wall Street.’ More than 800 people were admitted to hospitals and as many as 6,000 black residents were interned at large facilities, many for several days.” A later state commission estimated that up to 300 were killed.
Clearly, Juneteenth did not really “free” Black people, but it made them “Americans,” with their first hope for fairness and decency. It deserves a federal holiday and education, and not just in February.
That’s the Black experience.
WOMEN AND JUNE 4
Another group did not benefit as well from Independence Day, and that is–the majority! Women were not considered full citizens. Even as “Americans,” they were powerless, including not being able to own property, sign contracts, and did not even gain the right to vote until the 19th Amendment in 1920—131 years after the Founding—by the Founding “Fathers.”
Women will quickly tell you they still have not achieved equality, which statistics clearly illustrate. But most men can’t even see it.
Wouldn’t it make more sense for women to celebrate on June 4, when the Amendment became part of the constitution? Or some date in the future, if the “Equal Rights Amendment” becomes law? Either is more about “freedom” for them than July 4.
LET’S CELEBRATE, ANYWAY
All of us can and should celebrate the Fourth of July—as the country’s “birthday.” But the point is that for many groups of people—in fact, the great majority of Americans–there are other dates that would be better described as “Independence Day.”
Sadly, there is no such thing as a day of freedom or independence to celebrate for Native Americans. . . .