June 21, 2021


“President Joe Biden signed legislation [last] Thursday establishing a new federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery… Biden signed into law a bill to make Juneteenth, or June 19, the 12th federal holiday. The House voted 415-14 on Wednesday to send the bill to Biden, while the Senate passed the bill unanimously the day before.” AP News

Both sides support making Juneteenth a federal holiday:

America is wise to make Juneteenth a federal holiday… The nation now has a unique opportunity to listen to the voices of Black women and men who helped to reconstruct American democracy against long odds. Their stories continue well into the 21st century as the racial justice protests illustrated for the world to see…

“Juneteenth offers the rare chance to foster a new national consensus, one forged not through lies, evasions or half-truths, but through the crucible of coming to terms with the full depth and breadth of American histories of racial trauma that continue to haunt our country despite efforts by some to deny their very existence.”
Peniel Joseph, USA Today

“[Juneteenth] presents a teachable moment for our young people. It’s an opportunity to tell our youth the larger story of the history of slavery in America—not to shame or to divide, but to put it in its proper context as a considerable and formative part of American history that it truly was. Slavery was a part of who we were back then, and ridding ourselves of it and working toward equality for all is an integral part of who we have become…

“Juneteenth also gives us the opportunity to talk about how the principles of the founding—perfect principles espoused by imperfect people—and our constitutional order led this republic to ultimately fight against and reject slavery, and later, against segregation and the practice of separate but equal… Every nation has scars from its past, but we can use Juneteenth as a way to acknowledge our past faults, help heal current divisions, and move toward a future as a nation more united.”
Kay C. James, Daily Signal

What Juneteenth and other Emancipation days commemorate is both the promise of freedom and its delay. For June 19, 1865, doesn’t mark the day enslaved African Americans were set free in the United States but the day the news of Emancipation reached them in Texas, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation… the original Juneteenth marks not just the start of freedom but also the short-lived promise of the period of Reconstruction, and America’s subsequent race massacres that culminate in the Red Summer of 1919 and the Tulsa Massacre 100 years ago…

“We might count Juneteenth among those things Black people have long enjoyed that white folks don’t know about — like Frankie Beverly and Maze… [But] African Americans should not have to bear the burden of this history alone. Nor should Black achievement be something that only African Americans celebrate. As James Baldwin well knew, our freedoms are interrelated — and otherwise imperiled… [And] as Toni Morrison put it, ‘the function of freedom is to free someone else.’ Juneteenth tells us that a fuller future awaits, and the work of collective freedom is ongoing.”
Kevin Young, New York Times

“[Juneteenth] celebrates a crucial step in the fulfillment of America's founding principles and our founding dream. It does not displace Independence Day but strengthens what it represents. Without Independence Day, Juneteenth (self-governed people finally fighting for and achieving liberty for those wronged by our country's governance) could have never happened, and without what Juneteenth represents, Independence Day would mean far less than its current celebration: the beginning of a republic self-governed by men created equal by God.”
Tiana Lowe, Washington Examiner

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“Many formerly enslaved people across the South became farmers — and, for the next century, they and their descendants were systematically denied bank loans and government assistance. Where were Hawley and the Republicans when Democrats, as part of the $1.9 trillion covid relief package, approved $5 billion in relief for Black farmers? They all voted against it… More than a year later, Democrats still have not been able to find 10 Republican votes in the Senate for a set of modest reforms in policing, including a ban on chokeholds… Recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday is a hollow victory.”
Eugene Robinson, Washington Post

“Efforts made during Reconstruction to transition formerly enslaved Blacks into freedom were swiftly repudiated by the former Confederate leaders Andrew Johnson appointed to Congress. As Governor Perry of South Carolina said, ‘They forget that this is a white man’s government, and intended for white men only.’ This sentiment was codified in legislation called ‘Black Codes.’ Black Codes restricted the movement, property ownership, and employment of Black Americans. Black Codes defined Black heritage and made interracial marriage illegal; the terror of lynching proved that ‘free’ Blacks were not free to own their bodies…

“[Moreover] Vagrancy laws were one of the ways the country reverse-engineered the creation of slaves. After emancipation, freed Blacks were forced to stay on their plantation or risk being arrested as vagrants. Blacks could be arrested and charged a fine if they could present no proof of employment…

“To this very day, we see the caste system in operation. In health care access and treatment outcomes, in socioeconomic status, in vulnerability to police violence, in the effects of the coronavirus, Blacks fare worse than whites. All that together means Blacks fare worse than whites in possession of freedom.”
Anthony Conwright, The Nation

“[On Jan. 12, 1865] Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton [developed] Special Field Orders No. 15, popularly known as ‘40 acres and a mule,’ a promise to provide reparations to formerly enslaved Americans that Lincoln ultimately approved… By the first Juneteenth in 1865, some 40,000 Black men and women were living on, and farming, land allocated to them by the U.S. government. But Lincoln had been assassinated two months before, and the new president, Andrew Johnson, had already rescinded the special field orders…

“To truly celebrate Juneteenth, Congress should revive Special Field Orders No. 15. Dust off the original plans for the acreage to be redistributed to former slaves. Assess the current value of that land, likely in the billions or trillions of dollars. Use that assessed value as the starting point of a reparation plan for Black Americans. Vote that plan into effect on Juneteenth. Then, America will have a worthy holiday.”
Clyde W. Ford, Los Angeles Times

From the Right

“The problem of course is that Juneteenth, like just about everything these days, will become weaponized for partisan purposes. When that yankee from New York, Donald Trump… proposed making it a federal holiday in September 2020, his opponents accused him of pandering to blacks. Of course, critics of Joe Biden, he of the last slave state in the Union, make the same charge. And I hope we avoid the idea that Juneteenth is an alternative independence day for African Americans. Let’s celebrate it for what it is: a joyful date commemorating an event in the spirit of the biblical jubilee.”
Mackubin Owens, American Greatness

“When cranky liberals try to pin racism on the right, any Republican worth their salt will fire back with, ‘The GOP is the party of Lincoln! The party of abolition!’ Truth. So why pass up this amazing marketing opportunity? Rather than being angry about this because some deem it a ‘political’ holiday, conservatives should be taking every opportunity to remind Americans just who brought them this glorious day. You want to know how to maintain the momentum with the Black vote that Trump began? This is a great place to start

“Some conservative pundits are saying that Democrats will only politicize this holiday to bash conservatives… and possibly replace July 4th as a unifying celebration of patriotism. I can’t speak to the latter, but there is no doubt that the former is true. Democrats will politicize anything if it helps make their emotional case. So? If anything, that seems like more of an argument for the right to embrace Juneteenth and its roots…

“It’s weird that it is considered pandering if Biden signs it, but when Trump proposed it we were all for it. When we’re begging elitist Republicans to pay attention to the needs of their grassroots base, we call that engagement. When we’re saying we need to be paying attention to the needs of Black voters, we call that pandering. How very hypocritical. Let’s be a little more self-aware than that.”
Kira Davis, RedState

Some note that “I believe the demise of slavery clearly is worth commemorating with a holiday. But there are two problems with the bill Biden signed into law. First, there are already too many federal holidays. If a new one was to be created, an old one should have been removed from the calendar. It’s easy to see Juneteenth leading to more federal holidays. Why shouldn’t feminists demand a holiday in honor of female suffrage, a huge advance for half of the U.S. population? And as Latinos become the numerically dominant minority group in America, it’s easy to imagine pandering politicians creating a holiday to honor them…

“The second problem in my view is the selection of Juneteenth to commemorate the end of slavery. Why not go with the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation or the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment?”
Paul Mirengoff, Power Line Blog

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