In a strange and platitudinous ceremony yesterday, President Biden signed a bill creating the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Day entered the calendar in 1983. Henceforth, Americans will not receive mail or any other federal service on “Juneteenth,” a grating portmanteau of June 19, the day in 1865 on which Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Texas and belatedly proclaimed the abolition of slavery in that state, which had remained out of federal control after the official Confederate surrender at Appomattox.
The creation of the new federal holiday follows its symbolic adoption by many states and, recently, by a number of private companies eager to signal their virtue in the realm of race relations.
As history, Juneteenth is nonsense. General Granger’s order only applied to Texas. Legal slavery continued in the Civil War border states of Delaware and Kentucky, which were left out of the Emancipation Proclamation for wartime political reasons, until the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery as a matter of national constitutional law was ratified on December 6, 1865.
Confederate-aligned Native American tribes maintained slavery in their territories until the following year.
Since 1948, February 1 has been officially recognized as “National Freedom Day” in honor of the day in 1865 on which Abraham Lincoln signed the Congressional joint resolution that led to the Thirteenth Amendment. That date’s observance later gave rise to Black History Month, annually celebrated throughout February since 1976.
Nor did General Granger’s order suggest any form of celebration or remembrance. To the contrary, while the order did proclaim the abolition of slavery it also decreed that “the freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages,” and “that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
In other words, the original Juneteenth was intended to be a work day.
But historical accuracy was never the point in promoting Juneteenth.
The intent, rather, is to create a politically correct substitute for Independence Day – the nearby July 4 holiday – which in woke thought is now, however incredibly, tainted by association with 1776.
Following the deeply flawed and factually inaccurate teaching of the disreputable 1619 Project, many of the woke persuasion believe that the War of Independence was driven principally by a desire to maintain slavery rather than protect the liberties of the American Founding.
By this twisted logic, a new holiday is essential.
Just as the Soviets promoted New Year’s over Christmas, and May Day over Easter,
American leftists hope to divert the seasonally festive spirit away from something they consider evil – in this case the founding of our Republic – toward something of which they approve – an ahistorical celebration of “equity” that they value above equality, which merely guarantees equal opportunity rather than equal results.
And just as in Soviet times, the masses wallow in ignorance, waiting for the commissars to enlighten them.
According to a Gallup poll published last month, 62 percent of Americans report having little or no knowledge of what the new holiday is or means. A nearly corresponding 65 percent – including 43 percent of Democrats and even 32 percent of blacks – either oppose adopting Juneteenth as a federal holiday or (more often) are too unfamiliar with it to voice an opinion.
Not even Biden gets it. “Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments,” he said at the signing ceremony, “they embrace them.” Does he really mean to suggest that the abolition of slavery – the very event Juneteenth purportedly celebrates – was a “painful moment” in American history?
Given his checkered past on racial integration, he may very well think so, and his increasingly visible delirium may have prevented him from filtering it out. In any case, the ironic result is that going forward our only major celebration of nationhood will be racially segregated.
Typically, the hapless conservative establishment gave in without a fight, collectively straightening their bowties and avoiding conflict with Blue State neighbors who might have suspected that they are not very nice people had they failed to go along with the consensus Diktat.
According to Gallup, only a paltry seven percent of Republicans favored adopting Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Nevertheless, all 50 Republican senators and all but 14 Republican representatives voted for it.
There was virtually no public discussion or debate even as state and local actors all over America – with little support from what passes for their national leadership – assiduously drub the 1619 Project out of school curricula and prohibit the teaching of critical race theory. It is to them, and not to stale DC Republicrats, that the future of the cause of freedom belongs. Let us wish them a happy 4th of July.
Paul du Quenoy is President of the Palm Beach Freedom Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in History from Georgetown University. Read more here.
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