MUHAMMAD: Don't Forget Juneteenth

Askia Muhammad | 6/18/2014, 3 p.m.
All hail Juneteenth, the holiday that was declared by enslaved Africans in America.
Askia Muhammad

All hail Juneteenth, the holiday that was declared by enslaved Africans in America. Africans were not “slaves” even though they were enslaved. They never accepted the condition. They were never comfortable with it.

Juneteenth is June 19, 1865, the day a column of Union troops arrived at Galveston, Texas and read the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the enslaved persons in Texas two years and six months after it was proclaimed, and one year and two months after the conclusion of the Civil War which presumably decided the issue of slavery permanently.

After many, many slave rebellions and a virtual “industry” of runaways via the Underground Railroad and other means, more than 200,000 Africans fought bravely for their own freedom in the Civil War and were the deciding force in the victory which preserved the Union, the United States of America.

What makes Juneteenth special is not that Gen. Gordon Granger and his troops declared those who had been enslaved to be free, or even that it was way late in coming to the them in Texas, but rather that without consultation with any authorities, without waiting to be told what to do, the Africans knew exactly what to do – desist from slaving!

The enslaved Africans in Texas did not get a chance to run away to safety behind Union lines during the war, where they could then join the U.S. Colored Troops and fight for their freedom against the Confederate traitors who wanted to keep Black folks in bondage forever.

The celebration was short lived however. Just 12 years later, the infamous Hayes-Tilden Compromise was negotiated in order to elect Rutherford B. Hayes president after the 1876 election was deadlocked, and a wholesale betrayal of Black people and their interests was engineered, returning the Johnnie Rebs back to power, and removing federal troops which had protected Black people from the lynch-mob’s rope in the former Confederate states. But the Juneteenth celebrations continue to this very day.

Jim Crow segregation became the law of the land in the slave states, Blacks were powerless to resist, and the White folks in the rest of the country looked the other way as the Ku Klux Klan was born, and what eventually became 100 years of lynching was the new order of the day.

In the middle of the 20th century the Civil Rights Movement was born, and Blacks again aggressively asserted their demands for freedom, justice and equality inside the American society. Then somewhere near the dawn of the 21st century the Reparations movement was reborn, and that’s where we are today. Juneteenth then, Reparations now.

No people who’ve ever lived deserve reparation payments – making amends; atonement; indemnity – from their former tormentors more than do Blacks in the United States of America, and that is an indisputable fact. Now there are many people who would and do dispute the claim by Black people for reparations. Some of them think Black people should be grateful for having been brought to America from Africa and that maybe Black folks should be taxed again for citizenship, beyond having built this country and creating its wealth with 310 years of free labor.