Juneteenth: June 19th
Juneteenth falls on June 19 each year. It is a holiday whose history was hidden for much of the last century. But as the nation now observes the 150th anniversary of the Civil War’s onset, it is a holiday worth recognizing. In essence, Juneteenth marks what is arguably the most significant event in American history, the eradication of American slavery.
For centuries, slavery was the dark stain on America’s soul, the deep contradiction to the nation’s founding ideals of “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and “All men are created equal.” When Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, he took a huge step toward erasing that stain. But the full force of his proclamation would not be realized until June 19, 1865—Juneteenth, as it was called by slaves in Texas freed that day.
The westernmost of the Confederate states, Texas did not get news of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomatox that April until two months after the fact. But they heard once Union Gen. Gordon Granger, a New Yorker and West Point graduate with a distinguished wartime service record, arrived in Galveston Bay with more than 2,000 Union troops. It was on June 19 that he publicly read General Order No. 3, which began: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
In amazement and disbelief, the 250,000 former slaves in Texas learned that they had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, which could not be enforced until the war was over. (It applied only to the states “in rebellion” at the time it was issued.) Shocked, disoriented, most likely fearful of an uncertain future in which they could do as they pleased, the liberated slaves of Texas celebrated. Their moment of jubilee was spontaneous and ecstatic, and began a tradition of marking freedom on Juneteenth.
A grass-roots celebration highlighted by joyous singing, pig roasts, and rodeos, Juneteenth took root in many African-American communities during the late 19th century. But Juneteenth was never accorded official respect or recognition. In the bitterness of the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras, few states of the former Confederacy had any interest in celebrating emancipation. And as many African-Americans migrated north, especially in the Depression era, Juneteenth became a largely forgotten vestige of the Civil War era.
Over the past few decades, however, there has been a movement to revive this celebration of more complete freedom in America. Today, 39 states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth, although most don’t grant it full “holiday” status. A Congressional resolution also underscores the historical significance of “Juneteenth Independence Day.” And museums (including some of those that make up the Smithsonian Institution), now mark Juneteenth with annual programming.
Before emancipation, America’s slaves and anyone else who prized equality, freedom and liberty knew that the Declaration of Independence only meant equality, freedom, and liberty for some. “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist and escaped slave, asked in his Independence Day oration in 1852. “I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is constant victim.”
Language pulled from: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/juneteenth-our-other-independence-day-16340952/
In a series of victories for civil disobedience rights on Thursday, May 31 the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) dropped charges and dismissed several cases against people involved with the #DisruptJ20 march during President Donald Trump’s inauguration, and a federal judge sanctioned prosecutors for lying about evidence.
As Common Dreams has reported, last year “more than 200 anti-Trump demonstrators, legal observers, and journalists were ‘indiscriminately‘ swept up in mass arrests carried out during inauguration protests.”
Although a jury found the first group of protesters not guilty of all charges in December, federal prosecutors have continued pursuing cases against 59 of the rounded-up demonstrators—trying them in groups, seeking to imprison them for decades on felony charges, and relying heavily on recordings by the right-wing activist group Project Veritas.
Following a revelation last week that “prosecutors suppressed potentially exculpatory evidence,” known as a Brady violation, it was revealed in an overnight filing by defense attorneys that the government concealed 69 Project Veritas audio and video files and altered other recordings.
In response to the new Brady violations, at a pre-trial hearing on Thursday, Superior Court Judge Robert Morin dismissed conspiracy charges with prejudice—meaning that they cannot be refiled—but dismissed lesser charges without prejudice, meaning the government can still pursue those, according to reporters from the Huffington Post and Unicorn Riot.
Morin’s rulings Thursday apply to the May 29 trial group, the third group of J20 protesters—and reportedly led the USAO to dismiss several other cases, including the June 4 group.
Image by: Slowking