Why Juneteenth Is The Coolest Holiday
Today is Juneteenth, a celebration that began in Texas but has spread across the country as a celebration of black culture.
It is the coolest national holiday, for five reasons:
5. The name itself Thank God it's not known as The 19th of June, or even the other proposed names, like the clunky Emancipation Day. Juneteenth is easily the coolest name for an American holiday.
4, You want drama? You got it Abraham Lincoln had issued his Emancipation Proclamation three years previous to the first Juneteenth, but it didn't mean much in the Confederate states. So imagine the scene when the U.S. Army returned to Galveston and General Gordon Granger stepped out onto the balcony of Ashton Villa, which is still standing today, and read these words:
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.
Of course, whitey couldn't help but get a dig in. Freedmen, Granger said, "will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."
Because you know there's one thing about slaves -- they're always idling.
3. Weirdest writer's block ever Ralph Ellison, already famous for The Invisible Man, set out to write a novel called Juneteenth. After 40 years he still had not finished it. He claimed to have lost crucial portions of the manuscript in a 1967 house fire, but many think he just used that as an excuse for not delivering.
The trouble wasn't the classic case of writer's block -- it was the opposite. By the time of his death, the manuscript was 2,000 pages long. It was edited down to 300-some pages and published after his death, although how you edit 2,000 pages down to 300 and believe you're publishing what the author would have done is beyond us.
2. It died for a while As we got further and further away from the Civil War, Juneteenth celebrations began to wane. The 1950s was probably the nadir. But -- partly due to the civil-rights battle -- the holiday slowly came back into vogue, which is rare as regards American holidays.
1. The music Juneteenth celebrations usually include "Lift Evry Voice and Sing," and that's definitely not a bad thing.
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