Friday, June 19, 2009
Today is Juneteenth
On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas to inform the citizens of that city of the truce that had occurred at Appomattox two months previously and of the surrender of General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. The Civil War was over. The Confederacy was resoundingly defeated.
Up to that point, there had been a minimal Union presence in Galveston and vicinity and as many as 250,000 persons were still living in bondage despite President Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation two and a half years previously.
This day, now commonly known as "Juneteenth," is commemorated mostly in African-American churches, but it is also an official state holiday in Texas.
Modern-day Confederates, who, in an utterly ironic historical twist, identify mostly with the Republican party, often speak of the Confederacy in nostalgic and honorable terms. According to these apologists, the Confederacy was all about state's rights and rugged individualism and proud regional heritage.
But the Confederacy was really about a propertied elite, a New World aristocracy, hoodwinking the indigent regional hoi polloi into believing that the Federalists were trying to equate them with the Negroes, were belittling their heritage, were disrespecting their God-fearing creed. All done to protect the "respectable" Old South gentility in their position of social and political dominance. All done to protect those fortunes made with the lash and the shackle.
It's the same tack they take today with their manufactured "Tea Bag" rallies and their shrieks of "socialism." Remember the sturm und drang that took place when the state of Georgia underwent the process of creating a new state flag to replace the old one in which the Dixie "Stars and Bars" figured prominently? Or how about Texas Governor Rick Perry suggesting that Texans, apparently still Confederates in spirit, might someday secede if the federal government is unresponsive to Confederate concerns?
In the end, people saw through it. The evil of slavery outweighed any faux-arguments for legitimacy that the Confederacy put forth. (Well, that and the whipping they received at Gettysburg in July of 1863.)