Independence and Freedom.
What’s the difference?
Simple – because you are independent, are you free? Are you free to command your own self-worthiness and proclaim who you really are? Are you free to truly enjoy the experiences of the liberated? Are you free from legal, social and political restrictions?
We, as citizens of this nation celebrate the Fourth of July as Independence Day, which commemorates our liberation from the British. Yet, are we as citizens truly free to exercise unrestricted constraints upon our innermost impulses as human beings: freedom from hunger, to worship a God of our choice, or to love whom we wish? Do we have the satisfaction of meeting an old master on equal terms?
Since before Plymouth, inhabitants of this land which – included the newly-minted Native Americans – wished to share in a common love of and respect for freedom, as well as a determination to protect our right to freedom by which the tenets of freedom are guaranteed and protected. Sadly, the tenets of freedom did not extend to the forceful arrival of citizens from Africa and beyond the land of Chaldea and Ur, sparking 200 years of brutality to the human spirit and man’s inhumanity to man.
Following the floodgates of overflowing bloodshed and thousands of massacred human combatants in a war trying to secure a life of privilege and the determination of a nation to extend that privilege to all of its citizens, the following event occurred in the course of human events:
“Now, therefore, I Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and Government of the United States, and as fit and necessary war measure for suppressing this rebellion, do on this 1st day of January A.D. 1863 . . . order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively are this day in rebellion against the United States . . . I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States and parts of States are and hence forward shall be free . . .”
On June 19th, 1865, two and a half years after the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, Union Army General Gordon Granger stood on the balcony of the Ashton Villa in Galveston, Texas and gave this address:
“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 become that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
Contrary to popular belief Lincoln, by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, did not free the slaves completely. The Proclamation provided freedom specifically to slaves in those states that remained loyal to the Confederacy. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified on December 18, 1865, actually freed the slaves including those held in the four Confederate States that did not secede from the Union.
In an attempt to reconcile the gap between Liberation and Freedom, Juneteenth will be recognized on June 19 in order to complete the cycle of Freedom – July 4th and June 19.
On this coming Thursday and Saturday as we celebrate Juneteenth, say “Happy Juneteenth” to a family member, friend, neighbor or co-worker. If they don’t know what Juneteenth is – you can now teach them.
Dr. English Bradshaw is a well-known local educator and community servant.