Letter: Clarifications on Juneteenth

To the Editor:

Regarding your headline of June 21 and the Juneteenth-focused church service at First Congregational Church of Crystal Lake: First, I applaud and support the adoption of Juneteenth as a new federal holiday. Second, I would like to make some clarifications to correct statements made in the story. The biggest clarification is in regard to the reporter Katie Smith’s statement: “It commemorates the date in 1865 when news of the abolition of slavery reached the black community in Galveston, Texas.” The whole truth is that on June 18, 1865, 2,000 Union Army troops entered the city of Galveston as an occupying force under the command of Major Gen. Gordon Granger.

The following day, June 19, Gen. Granger read “General Order No. 3” to the residents: “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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection therefore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”

The second clarification would be the quote from Joseph Flynn: “Slavery is the historical fact we grossly under teach.” Rubbish, I grew up in the 1960s and attended public school. We all knew then that slavery was the main cause of the American Civil War. We also were reverently taught Lincoln’s hallowed words of his Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address. We also were taught that the GDP of the Southern states prior to the Civil War was hugely dependent on the evils of slavery.

The third clarification would be on Pastor Emily Davis’ quote: “We kept people in bondage even after the Emancipation Proclamation, and it’s a reminder we keep people in bondage still.” First, the “we” is incorrect. It was rebel Confederates who refused to release the slaves in Galveston. They finally did (essentially at gunpoint), only after Union Forces forces occupied Galveston. Also, I’m not aware of any states currently keeping people in bondage.

Doug Peterson