Guest column: Making Juneteenth a national holiday doesn't heal the wound

The Daily Ardmoreite
Dr. Maurice Franklin

Juneteenth is sacred. It is a day to honor our ancestors, reflect on community love, family unity, and self-love. There is no national holiday that can heal that wound.

While the U.S. Senate passed a bill to make Juneteenth a national holiday, the same senate has refused to vote on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. This bill is a distraction from the January 6 insurrection and the government's lack of unity to deal with homegrown terrorism and white supremacy. It gives more coverage to those who vote and lobby against voter protections and against a January 6 insurrection commission. Here are some facts about Juneteenth.

On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston to read General Order No. 3 — freeing all slaves. For freed enslaved peoples, that day has become known as Juneteenth. General Order #3 occurred two months after Robert E. Lee surrendered the last major Confederate army to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse. President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was issued 28 months earlier, January 1, 1863, to free enslaved Black people in confederate territories.

In theory, Lincoln's proclamation could have been issued months earlier. As a strategy for strategic momentum, Lincoln considered freeing the slaves only after the Union Soldiers had a significant victory over the Confederate Army. He did not want to appear weak. For two- and one-half years after Lincoln's 1863 proclamation, confederate sympathizing southern enslavers, shielded the truth, brutalized, terrorized, and continued to deny freedom to enslaved Black peoples. The proclamation was impotent in Texas and other surrounding southern adjacent states, until May of 1865. The nature of communication modes, and confederate state insurgency, kept many enslaved people unaware of their new freedom.

Southern terror and white supremacy practices were not limited to the confederacy. Southern indigenous native American tribes were also guilty of brutalizing enslaved Black Peoples. The Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Catawba, and Creek tribes all fought on the losing side of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Native tribes fought on the side of the confederacy for a promise of land and money. As a Muscogee Creek Freedman, I am particularly disturbed by the current and past actions of Muscogee Creek Nation. Perhaps, the federal governments' action will push the Creek to do the right thing for freedmen.

These are the historical circumstances and backdrop for which Juneteenth exists. Juneteenth is a day for the African American descendants of formerly enslaved generations to reflect on our ancestors and the brutalization they suffered under the hands of white supremacy for over 400 years. It is a time to reflect on the lives lost, blood sacrifices, share stories of our ancestor's strength and collective survival. It's also a time to commit as Americans never repeat such brutal atrocities. Any apologies from states and our federal government fall short without remedies to compensate descendants for the insidious systems that have crippled former enslaved Blacks throughout the U.S. No legislation could ever repair the damage created by the centuries of brutality. Reparations, can never repay American Descendants of Slaves for our descendants' labor? Juneteenth has become a requiem and celebration for descendants of formerly enslaved Blacks, but how do you get past the generations of rape, torture, and brutality?

Juneteenth is sacred. It is a day to honor our ancestors, reflect on community love, family unity, and self-love, but there is no national holiday that can heal those wounds.

"To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time," — James Baldwin

— Dr. Franklin is a professor of Public Policy and Public Administration. He lectures and consults on organizational sustainability and organizational development strategies. Franklin has completed an upcoming social equity article that will be published in Lessons in Social Equity: A Case Study Book.