DayeTime: Two more reasons to celebrate in June

I recently discussed the seldom observed Confederate Memorial Day of June 3. This week I am looking at another June holiday with roots in the Civil War.

Juneteenth, also called Freedom Day and Emancipation Day, is observed on June 19 -- the day in 1865 when Gen. Gordon Granger and a U.S. Army detachment of 2,000 soldiers landed at Galveston and read General Order No. 3.

"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 free laborer.”

Although Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, declaring all slaves in those areas in open rebellion to be free, those words rang as hollow promises until the bloody four-year Civil War was over.

There has never been any Juneteenth celebrations in Avoyelles, but there has been some interest in starting the tradition in the future.

There is a movement to add June 19 to the list of national holidays -- and the number of states who have not adopted it as a state holiday can be counted on one hand.

Juneteenth enjoyed a period of popularity in African-American communities in the South in the decades immediately following the Civil War. In the early 20th Century the holiday’s popularity declined.

As the years passed, there were fewer former slaves and children of slaves to provide firsthand memories and stories of their parents’ days of slavery and reaction to freedom. The “Jim Crow” laws deprived African-Americans of much of the promised equality of the June 19 proclamation, also taking away much of the joy and spirit of the holiday.

There was a renewed interest in Juneteenth after the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. That interest turned into efforts to restore its importance in the 1980s and 1990s.

Texas made June 19 a state holiday in 1980. When Maryland recognized it as a holiday in 2016, it left only five states -- Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota and South Dakota -- that did not have it as a state holiday or day of observance.

While Juneteenth may have more significance to African-Americans because it symbolizes the end of slavery in the United States, on a broader scale it embodies the principles and beliefs for which this nation stands: “All men are created equal.”

If we call it “Freedom Day,” doesn’t that mean freedom for all Americans?

If we call it “Emancipation Day,” aren’t we all emancipated, freed from the tyranny of monarchs who hold their position of authority based solely on an accident of birth?

Juneteenth need not be a “black” holiday. It is an American holiday marking a historic event that is part of what makes us who we are, what we are and why we are -- the greatest nation the world has known or will ever know.

In fact, there has never been a time in our history when we were not “great,” so there is no need to “make America great again.” That particular slogan has always rubbed me the wrong way.

In between June 3 and June 19 is June 14 -- Flag Day. This day, too, is not celebrated with parades, speeches, picnics, etc. as it was in days gone by.

We could blame global warming -- it’s just too hot in mid-June to be out in the sun any more than you have to be. More likely, there’s just too many local festivals prior to June 14 and the big one -- July 4th -- right after it.

There were some businesses decorated and municipalities put flags out along their main street. That’s about it.

Flag Day was a big deal when I was a kid, but there was always a major Air Force base nearby our house when I was growing up.

On June 14, 2018, the Stars and Stripes turned 241. Congress adopted it as the national emblem on June 14, 1777.

Flag Day is also a holiday that applies to all Americans. The flag represents all of us and belongs to all of us.

Flag Day began being observed in some cities in the 1880s and 1890s.

In 1916 Woodrow Wilson declared it a national holiday, probably to ramp up support for the U.S. entry into World War 1.

In 1949 Harry Truman signed a law designating June 14 of each year to be National Flag Day, probably to rally the nation against the “Commies” during the Cold War.

Yes, politicians have always used the flag for less than noble purposes. Their intent does not detract from the power, the beauty and the message of that star-spangled banner.

My grandson’s favorite song is “I’m proud to be an American.” When he sings that song, he can bring his Uncle Pat -- a retired Army combat veteran of Desert Storm who stands about 6 feet-forever -- to the verge of tears.

“I bet you’ll never catch him kneeling during the National Anthem,” Pat said.

I’d join Pat in placing that bet.

I hope you had a happy Flag Day and have a merry Juneteenth.


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