What is the Significance of Juneteenth?
Today, June 19th, is what is known in (some) Black communities as Juneteenth, and as an elder, it falls upon my consciousness to explain what this means.
Deemed the single most pinnacle of his achievement in office, Abraham Lincoln signed a document entitled the Emancipation Proclamation in an effort to abolish slavery in 1862, which became law on January 1, 1863 and thereby needed to be enforced by all white people owning slaves.
In part, the Proclamation reads that “all persons held as slaves [within the rebellious states (mainly Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee) are, and henceforward shall be free.” But because slave owning white men (predominantly) refused to accept this Proclamation, it took TWO years of Union soldiers riding across the country trying to force the slave owners to obey the “new” law (that was a couple of years old by then).
In fact, historically, it’s noted that because the slavers were so obstinate and rebellious, Lincoln issued the Proclamation TWICE, the first time in September 1862, and the second time giving it an effective date of January 1, 1863. Additionally, the 13th Amendment was passed in 1864 to make slave owning criminal and add punishment to those continuing to enslave people.
Well, we know that enslavers still didn’t take to some northern bearded hippie dude (Lincoln) telling them that they had to change their whole way of living without having to lift a finger other than whip some captive who tested their patience. There were NO work hours, as the time you needed to work depended on the crops grown and the timing needed to get them to market. The saying “from sun to sun” was used to describe the life of the enslaved who were required to work from sun up until sun down; there were no holidays, vacations, nor sick days, nor pregnancy leaves. Birthdays were basically non-events and practically unknown because, like livestock, there were few births actually recorded for Black people, and they knew they were born during some major event like, the year the locusts destroyed the crops. Or, the summer when the valley flooded. Or, that fall harvest when all the wheat was infested by weevils. Or when the master got married, or died, or had the middle boy.
Mind you, whites in most southern states were TOTALLY depended on people they’d enslaved to farm their lands, help them dress themselves, clean their bodies and toilets, care for the farm animals, plant and harvest their crops, build their homes, pave their streets, rear their babies (to grow up and become their masters/mistresses), cook their foods, clean their homes, entertain their guests, bear their babies (to ensure they had an increasing number of slaves), and even wet-nurse their newborns (because white women found it a disgusting chore). Before cars had headlights they used young slave boys to run ahead of the horses with lamps to guide the way through unpaved land with underbrush, rocks, and creepy crawly insects and animals.
So, for over two years after the Proclamation (and the 13th Amendment) the Union soldiers were traipsing around the country (mainly in the states of Kentucky, Missouri, Virginia, Tennessee, both Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and Florida) forcing slavers to free their Black captives.
Backing up just a bit and clarify that white slave owners made it very difficult for Black people to seek their freedom. Any time an enslaved person left their master’s property they were required to carry a pass identifying them and who they belonged to, where they were going, and when they were to return; the loss of these passes could result in imprisonment, beatings, or death. To ensure that the slaves were completely controlled, there were laws forbidding enslaved peoples to be taught reading, writing, or arithmetic, so there were few who could read what the master wrote on the passes, or duplicate what was written. Examples of such passes are as follows:
“Gentilmen[sic] let the boy Barney pass and repass from the first of June till the 4 to Couembia (Columbia) Mo for this date of 1852. /s/Samuel Grove.
“Please to let Benjamin McDaniel pafs to Dr. Henkal’s in New-Market Shanadoah County, Va and return on Monday or Tuesday night to Montpellier for Mrs. Madison. June 1st1843.” < https://grassrootsleadership.org/blog/2014/09/race-space-place-how-american-slavery-shapes-contemporary-ideologies-around-immigration>
“Excerpt from South Carolina Act of 1740
Whereas, the having slaves taught to write, or suffering them to be employed in writing, may be attended with great inconveniences; Be it enacted, that all and every person and persons whatsoever, who shall hereafter teach or cause any slave or slaves to be taught to write, or shall use or employ any slave as a scribe, in any manner of writing whatsoever, hereafter taught to write, every such person or persons shall, for every such offense, forfeit the sum of one hundred pounds, current money.
Excerpt from Virginia Revised Code of 1819
That all meetings or assemblages of slaves, or free negroes or mulattoes mixing and associating with such slaves at any meeting-house or houses, &c., in the night; or at any SCHOOL OR SCHOOLS for teaching them READING OR WRITING, either in the day or night, under whatsoever pretext, shall be deemed and considered an UNLAWFUL ASSEMBLY; and any justice of a county, &c., wherein such assemblage shall be, either from his own knowledge or the information of others, of such unlawful assemblage, &c., may issue his warrant, directed to any sworn officer or officers, authorizing him or them to enter the house or houses where such unlawful assemblages, &c., may be, for the purpose of apprehending or dispersing such slaves, and to inflict corporal punishment on the offender or offenders, at the discretion of any justice of the peace, not exceeding twenty lashes.” <https://www.thirteen.org/wnet/slavery/experience/education/docs1.html>
Slaves seeking their freedoms began to be so rampant, the U.S. government conspired with the slave owners and instituted the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850. In addition to that, it became the running theme that any enslaved person who sought freedom before this freedom Proclamation was considered mentally unstable, and so much so that in 1851, Samuel A. Cartwright, an American physician, coined the term “drapetomania” to describe any Black person fleeing captivity, which was a belief was preached to all slavers. With both the government and law enforcement (paddy rollers) complicit, runaways were hunted down like valued livestock. Dogs, particularly bloodhounds, were trained to hunt runaways.
According to Yingling & Parry (2016), dogs were integral to controlling slaves. They report, “indigenous peoples were literally ‘fed to the dogs’ in the Caribbean and throughout the continental Americas.” They discuss the breed called “Cuban Bloodhounds, which were specifically bred . . . for their ferocity and tenacity in subduing black rebellions.”
Similar to the actions in the Caribbean, white enslavers bred dogs for controlling slaves in the U.S.:
“By the 1840s the practice of keeping ‘slave dogs’ was widespread. Newspaper advertisements — like one in the West Tennessee Democrat describing the “Finest dogs for catching negroes’ — document the rise of professional slave’ hunting. Trackers interbred Cuban hounds with local dogs as slave hunting became a profitable venture for white men throughout the South.” <https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/05/dogs-bloodhounds-slavery-police-brutality-racism/>
Even the act of running away was complicated because many states like Oregon (which was the 33rdstate admitted to the Union in 1859) that prohibited Black folk to take up residence within their borders:
“White emigrants who came to present-day Oregon during the 1840s and 1850s generally opposed slavery, but many also opposed living alongside African Americans.
The effect was to legalize slavery in Oregon for three years. Moreover, once freed, a former slave could not stay in Oregon—a male would have to leave after two years, a female after three. Any free black who refused to leave would be subject to lashing, a provision that was known as ‘Peter Burnett’s lash law.’ Burnett, who later became the first U.S. governor of California, gave this explanation for his support for the law: ‘The object is to keep clear of that most troublesome class of population [blacks]. We are in a new world, under the most favorable circumstances and we wish to avoid most of those evils that have so much afflicted the United States and other countries.’ ”
Regardless of the consequences, those enslaved risked life and limb to find freedom. Freedom came even more to those enslaved in Texas. Slaves there only heard about their emancipation two years (an estimated 30 months) following the issuance of the Proclamation.
When the Union soldiers made their announcements about the Proclamation in Texas, they actually encouraged the slaves to stay with their former masters. Known as a type of amendment to the Proclamation, General Order №3 reads:
“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 personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
This announcement was in direct conflict with the fact that Black enslaved peoples were offered payment of “full citizenship” as reward for their military service (which did not happen). It took the 14th Amendment of the Constitution in 1868 to grant “the right of residence” to Black people, but still did not guarantee full citizenship. Even the Civil Rights Act of 1866, called the birthright citizenship law, seemed to guarantee full citizenship, but it’s been constantly tested. It reads:
“All persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States.”
When the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868 by clarified the status of enslaved peoples by “guaranteeing to [B]lack Americans — and all people born or naturalized in the United States — the constitutional protection against removal. <https://time.com/5324440/14th-amendment-meaning-150-anniversary/>
If they were enlisted out of South Carolina or Massachusetts they were paid $10/month from which $3 was deducted for clothing. In contrast the white soldiers were paid $13/month with no clothing deducted (corrected after a few years to equal pay, but no proof that pay was actually equalized). Black soldiers were also put in the most perilous positions because whites thought the war was because of them so they deserved the brunt of it. Black soldiers were still treated miserably and eventually had to make up their own companies because white soldiers wouldn’t fight along side of them. And even then there were laws in most states that prohibited Black people from owning or carrying a weapon. One most notable incident of the violence white soldiers showed against Black soldiers was when confederate soldiers captured soldiers at Ft. Pillow in TN in 1864, and all the Black Union soldiers were massacred instead of being captured and made prisoners (POWs) as their white counterparts looked on and didn’t interfere.
Following emancipation, and in a united retaliatory (albeit passive) action, the slave owners didn’t as much “free” their enslaved peoples as they “turned them out” like cattle to pasture. You need only to listen to the voices of former slaves recorded in the early 1900s called “Slave Narratives” to understand how devasting and traumatizing that had to be. According to some researchers, politicians and enslavers deliberately waited those (almost three) years so that they could make as much money as they could before they were forced to release their free laborers. And even after they were told they were free, the ex-slaves still had to live in a society where the traditions and culture of slavery and oppression continued to overrule the laws of freedom to the point that there seemed to be no benefit of being free, so while many Black freedmen hurried to find their children and spouses scattered all across the country, the only option many of the former slaves could do to survive was to return to what they knew as familiar.
Mind you, being “freed” was suddenly finding you had no home because when the enslaved peoples were “turned out” or called “the scatter,” because they had no lands, no money for all their hard work, no crops to sell for food, no food to eat for nourishment, no homes, limited clothing, no shelter, no doctors (white doctors would not care for Black people, in general), no political power or voting rights (withheld by law until 1870; withheld by tradition (and literacy tests) until the 1965), no law enforcement to protect them anyone including from “paddy rollers” who were human scavengers and bounty hunters who mistreated them . . . because they could.
Also keep in mind that these paddy rollers were the precursors to what we still call law enforcement and began as slave patrols to enforce discipline upon any Black person who refused to obey whatever any white person (man, woman, or child) told them to do. They even created a badge that has been a symbol of law enforcement since the 1700s-1800s (see https://plsonline.eku.edu/insidelook/brief-history-slavery-and-origins-american-policing).
Imagine how frightened white people were upon seeing hundreds of thousands of Black people roving all across the country trying to rise above the well-accepted practice of a “free labor system” (or using Black people to do work without paying them), or just to catch a break and provide for their families. At the time of their so-called emancipation, there were approximately 3.9 MILLION Black peoples enslaved. Freedom, in actuality, was mainly a benefit for whites because they no longer had to provide for Black people as slave owners. Since slave owners were not used to paying Black people for work after hundreds of years of such patterned behavior, it wasn’t so easy for them to suddenly treat Black people they saw a week ago (for example) as their property, and suddenly having to treat them “as white” and pay them for their labor. Many resented the idea of having to do so, so they resorted to other measures to get their needs met by paying as little as they could (still happens in the 21st Century), or withholding wages after the work was done, or paying with something other than money (animals, cloth, food).
Too, although Black people were awarded a minute measure of freedom (at least on paper), the actual tradition of slavery was still legal and unenforced for decades thereafter and disguised in various forms. As Frederick Douglass wrote when he addressed the labor question in 1883:
“As labor becomes more intelligent he will develop what capital he already possesses — that is the power to organize and combine for its own protection. Experience demonstrates that there may be a slavery of wages only a little less galling and crushing in its effects than chattel slavery, and that this slavery of wages must go down with the other.
There is nothing more common now that the remark that the physical condition of the freedmen of the South is immeasurably worse that in the time of slavery; that in respect to food, clothing and shelter they are wretched, miserable and destitute; that they are worse masters to themselves than their old masters were to them.”
And Noam Chomsky addressed the issue in 1848 when he said:
“Those who work in the mills ought to own them, not have the status of machines ruled by private despots who are entrenching monarchic principles on democratic soil as they drive downwards freedom and rights, civilization, health, morals and intellectuality in the new commercial feudalism.”
Slowly, after emancipation, skilled Black people began to earn a small percentage of what whites laborers made by picking cotton (in general, Black people have never been paid at the same rate as whites with less-than, or equal-to skills). Many of the newly emancipated made their money by hiring themselves out using their self-taught crafts like cabinet makers, cowboys, cattle wranglers, blacksmiths, milliners (hat makers), dock workers, nannies, and more of the unskilled continued as field hands. With that money they bought land and built their homes and communities in scattered enclaves where they only answered to someone who looked like themselves.
Oddly enough, a real conundrum was the fact that while white people detested even so much as sharing a meal, or their religion (especially communion), medical care, dentists, restrooms, and water fountains, they never gave it a second thought to have a Black woman wet nurse their babies, or have them cook their meals, or have them rear their children. [Note: The movie, The Help, is a true reflection of how repulsed white people were to be forced to accept Black people as human, or even equal and that was based on life in the 1960s.]
Mind you, when Black people were enslaved, the gin mills would pay their MASTERS what the cotton (or other crops) was worth, and the masters would — MAYBE — pay their workers a fraction of that income (more often they would inform the laborer that that amount would be deducted from what they “owed” the master for feeding them). Too, when they actually paid them money, they would also pay any white farm hand 2–3 times what they would pay the Black farmers because they believed that the Black people didn’t need much, nor were they used to having anything so why entrust them with money they didn’t know the value of (another pattern of behavior still maintained in the workforce today). The term “slave wages” had its beginnings during this time.
As the Black people began buying their own lands, using their skills to enrich the soils on their own lands (which white people only sold them because they thought the land was unproductive), and using timber from their own land to build their own homes and neighborhoods, investing in their own communities by building their own banks and other businesses (barbers, cooks, milliners, dressmakers, etc.), creating their own banking systems (the Black community in Greenwood, OK was so prosperous, they were called the Black Wall Street), they were perceived to be a LOT more prosperous (and too soon after emancipation) than many poor whites who were struggling financially as sharecroppers and in service-type jobs, seeing Black people dress better, live in better houses, drive better cars, their jealousy of the thriving Black communities became insurmountable.
Thus began the times when whites used their white women (who worked in cahoots with their white males counterparts) to cry “rape” and the historical incidences of rioting where this was the initial causation is disheartening. It took little for whites to feel disrespected by Black people wherein they rounded up the deep seated anger of like-minded whites and whipped the crowds into a blind fury, then mounted up using the battle cry of being white saviors for their women. And thus armed, angry, and single mindedly, rode into neighboring Black developments, burned and looted the businesses (banks, especially), destroyed their cemeteries, raped the females, shot, maimed, and/or killed any males they found no matter what age (because they still claim that they can’t tell the age of Black people, so better dead than take the chance of leaving witnesses). Although these acts were rampant at some level around the country, the most notable happened in NYC (1863), Atlanta, GA (1906), East St. Louis, MO (1917), Chicago (1919), Washington, DC (1919, Knoxville, TN (1919), Greenwood (in Tulsa), OK (1921), and Rosewood, FL (1923). These are the things that researchers are now admitting to cause genetic trauma (or genetic memories) and legacies that still affect Black families in the 21st Century.
Additionally, there were several Black settlements throughout the States where Black people escaping slavery felt safe because they built them. One was a large African community called Seneca Village in New York that existed between 1825 and 1857, which was a thriving community that whites found displeasing because Black people were better off than they were, so they razed the whole community and created what is now well known as Central Park.
Another was called the Five Points District (in lower Manhattan, NY), which was the first free Black settlement (between the 1830s and 1860s) that was also razed because of gentrification and we now know that as Wall Street — the whitest financial district there is.
Weeksville, NY, was another Black settlement that was land purchased by a free Black man, James Weeks, in 1835 that was taken over by whites and renamed Bedford-Stuyvesant (aka Bed Stuy), partially after Peter Stuyvesant, who was the last governor of a Netherlands colony in the 1660s. Today Bed Stuy is called Crown Heights. By the 1850s Weeksville had several prominent homes, its own schools, churches, cemetery, an orphanage, a retirement home, and a newspaper (the Freedman’s Torchlight). This community was lost due to white people rioting against Black people during the NY Draft Riots of 1863 who were misguided into believing that Congress was drafting white men to fight for the freedoms of Black slaves.
Another land loss was Barry Farms (Washington, DC) which was established at the end of the Civil War for freed Black families, but gentrification has recently claimed it and it began to be demolished earlier this year.
Too, in South Carolina, the Gullah (word means “near the water”) people (many were fishermen), descendants of slaves owned a lot of land that eventually became Hilton Head Island (named after a ship’s captain, William Hilton), which was originally a cotton plantation. In the 1860s, the government provided the newly freedmen both a quarter of an acre of land and enough material to build a 22-by-18’ house, which is a little more than the size of a bedroom in newer homes today; more like a shed. When first established the land was hard to reach except by boat over the water, but whites built a bridge to make it more accessible and little by little, the lands owned by the Black families for generations were taxed high enough to be lost to the whites who began to see the value in it. [NOTE: Historically, wherever white people inhabited one of the first things they did was to cut the indigenous peoples off from the waterways.] When whites saw the value in the lands that the Black ex-slaves had cultivated into being productive, they found creative ways to remove them from their homes, including refusing to provide a sewer system or garbage collection, or resorted to charging high taxes to people who never had to pay taxes before that.
It is worth noting that in 1862, white people who owned slaves and lost them due to emancipation were compensated for their loss, so think carefully if you believe that Black people should not be considered to be compensated for their labors as well.
Eminent domain was established in 1879 (or the right of use for the greater good) and was used to confiscate properties that the disenfranchised couldn’t fight against. Established to “facilitate transportation, supply water, construct public buildings, and aid in defense readiness,” it in fact, is the way the current US president found a way to commandeer in 2005 (against an elderly widow) and proceed to bulldoze his way through the US (and other countries) to get the lands he wanted whenever there was pushback from the landowners when he began his early rise to power (he deemed this law “a wonderful thing” at that time). It is the “right of the government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use with [low balled] payment for compensation.” It was not meant for private developers, but somehow the current president found a way to use it in his favor, and if the government wants to put a freeway through a Black community and the community tried to fight them, they would impose the eminent domain, for which there was no way to win.
After the Emancipation Proclamation was finally enforced countrywide (to a large extent) whites went into overdrive to keep Black people in the place to which they had become accustomed — with nothing. They passed laws that created “red line districts” which first corralled Black homeownership into planned districts, thereby controlling the prices of homes as well as allowing insurance companies to charge outrageous fees from Black homeowners who lived within those boundaries. When cars were purchased, insurance companies charged more of car owners and drivers who lived within those boundaries than they did of whites of comparable income and living conditions. Even more devious, insurance companies would devalue homes of prominent Black people even when they were better maintained and furnished than neighboring white homes so that property values never equaled those of comparable white homes. To this day, a well-kept, high quality furnished home in any Black community would be valued at a fraction of a comparable white home, even if that comparable white home was surrounded by cheaper homes.
Then whites created “sundown towns,” which were all-white neighborhoods where Black people could not only NOT live in, but could be arrested, beaten, or lose their property (cars, personal items) if they were found within those neighborhoods after the sun went down and any given day, seven days a week. Signs were posted at every entry point warning Black people that they were not to be caught within the township after sundown. [https://www.backstoryradio.org/blog/dont-let-the-sun-go-down-on-you/]
One of the most famous events involving a “sun down town” was in Forsyth County, GA in 1912 where whites took liberties and became vigilantes in attacking Black people passing through their counties. They (whites) created laws locally that they used to arrest and convict Black people for vagrancy or being unemployed, then incarcerated them because they couldn’t pay the hefty fines imposed on them. Those convicted became the system upon which our current prison systems are built and sustained and Black people, who could not afford to pay their way out, became free labor that replaced the slavery system. [https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2017/0327/Sundown-towns-Midwest-confronts-its-complicated-racial-legacy]
Out of this free labor system came the “black codes” that ramped up in the 1840s, but actually passed in the mid 1860s and lasted for over 100 years — until the 1960s. These black codes were written to force former slaves to sign annual contracts to work for white farmers at low, non-negotiable wages, or be jailed for vagrancy.
More often than not, rather than pay these forced workers at the end of the harvest system, the white farmer set up another system of credit and charged exorbitant prices for food items like rice, beans, wheat, sugar, and flour. One important fact to remember is that most of the Black people they dealt with were uneducated because whites made laws that forbade them from teaching Black people to read, write, or do math; all that was by design and long term planning.
So not having the ability to see what the white farmer had on their books (and being LEGALLY unable to dispute what they wrote) they would deduct the cost of every product given to their Black laborers, every clothing item, every animal eaten (chickens, pigs, cattle), every wagon wheel necessary to pull the wagons. They kept their own books (which the Black sharecroppers weren’t allowed to see, nor dispute under penalty of incarceration) and they kept a tally so that they could deduct from the wages they owed the workers (slaves) for their work. This made it so that the Black workers still ended up with no income, or still owing the white farmer to the point of never being able to get out of their debt, so slavery continued under a different form. Also under the restrictions of these Black Codes, Black people were prevented from owning and operating restaurants and taverns, and could have no licenses for any trade outside of driving carts and carriages.
It was during this era (both black code and Jim Crow) that the Great Migration (about 1917 to 1970s) began of Black people moving from the south to the north. And, ALTHOUGH FREED, it was STILL illegal for them to leave the state without the permission of white people, an offense punishable by beatings and/or incarceration. Isabel Wilkerson discusses how Black people who wanted to leave the south were jailed, beaten, banned from working, and other sorts of punishments incurred for seeking freedom in her wonderful novel, The Warmth of Other Suns (2010); it is a history book written in novel format that’s an excellent teaching tool. Black people were not allowed to sit in certain sections of trains, busses, or any public transportation, and were usually charged higher rates for tickets to ride.
Getting a job as menial as porters and maids on the trains was prohibited for a long time because the white porters, between their tips and wages, made great money. These jobs were restricted from being filled by Black workers, but eventually they, under the leadership of the famous A. Phillip Randolph along with Milton Webster, were able to form the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925 (lasted until 1978) and became the first labor organization led by African Americans. This two men, Webster and Randolph, also caused Franklin Roosevelt to issue an Executive Order creating the Fair Employment Practices Committee because of the overt racism Black workers experienced.
On the tails of the black codes and outright violence against Black people trying to make a living and support their families, whites began the sharecropping system where Black people (and some poor whites) were allowed to rent a small plot of land owned by the white farmer, and whatever they earned from their small crops, they used to pay the rent. More often than not they worked as a field hand as part of the price of renting the land, and again, the white farmer would take advantage of them by deducting every food item it took them to feed their families, or to clothe them. At the end of harvest, the Black farmers/sharecroppers were usually in more debt than profited.
In 1846, right as the Civil War was ending there was a “convict lease system” instituted that (officially) lasted until 1928. By their count, Black people were more than 90% of Black of all people arrested who were fined or charged with vague crimes (like vagrancy), and their paperwork lost (if they wrote any at all) so that their families couldn’t find them, nor bail them out. In an article on Black labor post emancipation, it reads:
“A principal difference between antebellum slavery and convict leasing was that, in the latter, the laborers were only the temporary property of their ‘masters.’ On one hand, this meant that after their fines had been paid off, they would potentially be let free. On the other, it meant the companies leasing convicts often absolved themselves of concerns about workers’ longevity. Such convicts were viewed as disposable and frequently worked beyond human endurance.” [http://theconversation.com/exploiting-black-labor-after-the-abolition-of-slavery-72482]
And we cannot overlook the Jim Crow era, which was the legal wedge whites enforced just in case Black people and white people had any ideas of working together. These were laws that enforced the segregation of the races (which is also a social construct in itself) at the end of Reconstruction in the late 1870s and lasted well into the Civil Rights era of the 1950s-1960s. This was spurred on by whites who feared that Black people would take their jobs because their white peers could pay the Black workers pennies on the dollars, but had to pay their white peers a (reasonably) fair wage, but much greater than they ever paid the Black workers.
Little known to many, Juneteenth even has a flag. Designed by L. J. Graf from Texas, she explains that “the colors red, white, and blue echo the American flag to symbolize that the slaves and their descendants were Americans. The star in the middle pays homage to Texas, while the busting ‘new star’ on the ‘horizon’ (encircling the solid star in the center) of the red and blue fields represents a new freedom and a new people.” < http://mentalfloss.com/article/501680/12-things-you-might-not-know-about-juneteenth>
So, Juneteenth has a history filled with trauma, violence, and deadly force. Sadly, so much of what has been the legacy of African Americans in the colonial era continues into our daily lives only it takes on different forms like instead of being lynched, Black people are usually executed by gunfire, and usually at the hands of former paddy rollers now called law enforcement. But it signals a reflective hope that our Black ancestors had when they learned that they were no longer the property of white people, which in Black communities is much more significant to African American than the Fourth of July.