Four enduring myths about Juneteenth are not based on fact


People take photos next to a mural during a June 19 celebration in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 2021. Last year, the U.S. designated June 19 as a federal holiday and President Joe Biden urged Americans to “learn from our history.

Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images


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Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images


People take photos next to a mural during a June 19 celebration in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 2021. Last year, the U.S. designated June 19 as a federal holiday and President Joe Biden urged Americans to “learn from our history.

Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images

African-Americans across the country celebrate June 19, but who knows what really happened on June 19, 1865? As the nation observes the second federal legal holiday marking the emancipation of enslaved people in Texas, there are a number of misconceptions about the historic event that keep repeating themselves.

myth #1: President Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, and it is outrageous that it took two and a half years for the news to finally reach the slaves of Texas.

Done: Many slaves were aware of Lincoln’s executive order that emancipated them. The news was widely covered in Texas newspapers, with an anti-abolitionist twist, and blacks would have heard whites discuss it in private and in public. Furthermore, “There was an incredibly sophisticated network of communication among the slaves in Texas,” says Edward T. Cotham, Jr., Texas Civil War historian and author of Juneteenth, the story behind the celebration. “News like that spread like wildfire. We know that some slaves knew about the Emancipation Proclamation even before slave owners. It meant nothing because there was no army to enforce it.”

June Collins Pulliam is a fifth-generation Galvestonian whose enslaved great-great-grandparents, Horace and Emily Scull, were freed by the Order of June 16. “It wasn’t that all these poor people didn’t get the message,” he says, “it was that no one enforced it, no one made it happen!”

myth #2: Major General Gordon Granger authored General Orders No. 3, the June 16 Order, and is credited with freeing slaves from Texas.

Done: The order, which includes the powerful language “all slaves are free” and “absolute equality,” was actually written by Granger’s staff officer, Major Frederick Emery, who came from an abolitionist family in Free Kansas. “As an anti-slavery crusader in Kansas, Emery was well versed on the subject of emancipation,” writes Cotham in his book Juneteenth.

Sam Collins III, the unofficial ambassador for Juneteenth tourism in Galveston, says: “Granger is just one of the characters in the story. He is not a great hero. In fact, he was no friend of the slaves. There are reports of Granger sending fugitive slaves back to slave states”.

myth #3: General Gordon Granger read the June 16 Order from a balcony to the people of Galveston, announcing that “all slaves are free.”

Done: According to Cotham, General Granger never read the order publicly, nor did any of his staff. It would have been posted around town, particularly in places where blacks congregated, such as “the Negro Church on Broadway,” as Reedy Chapel-AME Church then he was called. Most of the slaves in Texas found out about General Orders No. 3 when the master gathered them together and read them the news.

myth #4: The Juneteenth Order was basically a Texas version of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Done: General Orders No. 3 unequivocally stated that “all slaves are free”, but also contained condescending language intended to appease planters who did not want to lose their workforce. Forty-one words of the brief 93-word order urged enslaved people to stay and keep working.

“The released are advised to stay in their current homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts, and will not be supported in idleness there or anywhere else.”

Sam Collins: “The last two sentences advise freedmen to stay in their present homes and work for wages. So you are free, but don’t go anywhere.”

Ed Cotham: “Many years later, former slaves (interviewed for the WPA Slave Narratives of the 1930s) remembered when the Freedom Paper was read to them. The slave owner wanted them to keep working, but they didn’t listen to him right away.” that way. Once I heard “all slaves are free” they said to hell with you. That’s what made the Order of the Nineteenth of June so memorable and successful.”



Reference-www.npr.org

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