Culture

Here’s Why Texas Takes Up Such An Important Place In The History Of Juneteenth And The Abolition Movement

For those of you unaware, Juneteenth is the holiday that officially commemorates the abolishment of slavery in America. While the Emancipation Proclamation was signed over two years earlier, we celebrate Juneteenth because it’s the day Texas finally complied with the law and informed slaves they were free.

Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, made effective beginning January 1, 1863.

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Back in the late 1800s, word traveled slowly. When the Civil War was won, it took over two months for Confederate soldiers to hear that Robert E. Lee surrendered. Other more sinister and likely theories are that slaveowners kept the news a secret for as long as possible, and/or someone actually killed the messenger sent by the Federal government to relay the news.

Thirty months later, Galveston Island, Texas, was the last town in America that was illegally enslaving African Americans.

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General Gordon Granger and his cohort of Union soldiers had been traveling the South for two years to spread the word that slaves were freed. His last stop was Galveston Island, on June 19th, 1865.

The story has it that the freed slaves left before Granger finished his announcement.

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Droves of freed African-Americans fled Texas to find more welcoming (northern) parts of the U.S. While Juneteenth is the day we celebrate freedom, slavery never ended. There were several reports of slave owners deliberately waiting to free their slaves until after the harvest.

In a way, Juneteenth commemorates what we all already know to be true: justice delayed for Black and brown folks is somehow worth celebrating.

When freed slaves tried to celebrate Juneteenth a year later, Jim Crow laws were already in effect.

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There were no public places they could use. A group of freed slaves in Houston pooled $800 to purchase what is now called “Emancipation Park.” For seventy more years, it would be the only public park and swimming pool open to African-Americans in Houston.

The Mascogos, often called the Black Seminoles, live and celebrate Juneteenth in Coahuila, Mexico.

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The origin of this group is difficult to pinpoint. Some say they were African slaves of the Florida Seminole tribe and fled to Mexico, where they made alliances with local indigenous groups. Others say that they were freed slaves who lived among the Florida Seminole tribes as equals and created their own community.

Every year, what’s left of the community celebrates Juneteenth in full regalia.

Texas was the first state to recognize Juneteenth as a state-wide holiday.

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When Barack Obama was a Senator, he co-sponsored legislation to make Juneteenth a national holiday. He continued that fight into his presidency, but it never passed.

To this day, it’s shocking how many folks pass by Juneteenth and look to July 4th as a celebration of freedom.

@daja_harrell / Twitter

If Fannie Lou Hammer was right in saying “nobody’s free until everybody’s free,” then America’s founding ain’t the day to celebrate. Juneteenth put an end to the repulsive founding of America–built on the backs of Black men and women.

Juneteenth is both a day of celebration and resistance of modern-day slavery.

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Over 150 years later, no meaningful reparations have been made to the descendants of slaves. The effects of slavery and Jim Crow live on in our laws as our country legally throws descendants of slaves into prison, into underfunded schools, and are legally murdered by police at disproportionate rates. One in every 13 African Americans has been stripped of the right to vote because of felony disenfranchisement laws. White supremacy reigns.

Black America, we are with you.

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Juneteenth is a day more Americans should celebrate. July 4th is a holiday that will always symbolize the freedom of the nation from the ruling of England. However, Juneteenth is when the nation decided to end the cruel and horrible act of slavery.

READ: Vogue Brazil Style Director Resigns After Hosting A “Slavery” Party

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Today, Puerto Rico Celebrates Emancipation Day–the Day When the Island Officially Abolished Slavery

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Today, Puerto Rico Celebrates Emancipation Day–the Day When the Island Officially Abolished Slavery

Photo via George W. Davis, Public Domain

Today, March 22nd marks Día de la Abolición de Esclavitud in Puerto Rico–the date that marks the emancipation of slaves in Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, enslaved peoples were emancipated in 1873–a full decade after the U.S. officially abolished slavery. But unlike the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico celebrates today as an official holiday, where many businesses are closed.

The emancipation of Puerto Rican slaves was a very different process than the United States’. For one, the emancipation was gradual and over three years.

When the Spanish government abolished slavery in Puerto Rico 1873, enslaved men and women had to buy their freedom. The price was set by their “owners”. The way the emancipated slaves bought their freedom was through a process that was very similar to sharecropping in the post-war American south. Emancipated slaves farmed, sold goods, and worked in different trades to “buy” their freedom.

In the same Spanish edict that abolished slavery, slaves over the age of 60 were automatically freed. Enslaved children who were 5-years-old and under were also automatically freed.

Today, Black and mixed-race Puerto Ricans of Black descent make up a large part of Puerto Rico’s population.

The legacy of enslaved Black Puerto Ricans is a strong one. Unlike the United States, Puerto Rico doesn’t classify race in such black-and-white terms. Puerto Ricans are taught that everyone is a mixture of three groups of people: white Spanish colonizers, Black African slaves, and the indigenous Taíno population.

African influences on Puerto Rican culture is ubiquitous and is present in Puerto Rican music, cuisine, and even in the way that the island’s language evolved. And although experts estimate that up to 60% of Puerto Ricans have significant African ancestry, almost 76% of Puerto Ricans identified as white only in the latest census poll–a phenomenon that many sociologists have blamed on anti-blackness.

On Puerto Rico’s Día de la Abolición de Esclavitud, many people can’t help but notice that the island celebrates a day of freedom and independence when they are not really free themselves.

As the fight for Puerto Rican decolonization rages on, there is a bit of irony in the fact that Puerto Rico is one of the only American territories that officially celebrates the emancipation of slaves, when Puerto Rico is not emancipated from the United States. Yes, many Black Americans recognize Juneteenth (June 19th) as the official day to celebrate emancipation from slavery, but it is not an official government holiday.

Perhaps, Puerto Rico celebrates this historical day of freedom because they understand how important the freedom and independence is on a different level than mainland Americans do.

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Racists Threatened To Call ICE On This Mexican Restaurant After They Kept Their Mask Rule

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Racists Threatened To Call ICE On This Mexican Restaurant After They Kept Their Mask Rule

Several states across the country (mostly governed by Republican leaders) have decided to repeal their mask mandates despite their own health officials urging against such moves.

Yes, the vaccine roll out has improved under the Biden administration – with nearly 2 million people getting vaccinated each day – but that is still not enough for the United States to reach herd immunity over night.

Now, thanks to these irresponsible moves by Republican governors, Americans are left to fend for themselves against anti-makers. In fact, a Mexican restaurant in Texas that decided to keep its mask mandate for diners is now facing racist attacks with people threatening to call ICE on its workers.

Texas Mexican restaurant is facing a backlash for sticking to its mask rules.

Houston’s Picos Restaurant, a small family-owned Mexican restaurant, is facing racist threatening comments after deciding to prioritize public health amid an ongoing pandemic. Several people sent hateful messages through social media and called the restaurant, threatening to report staffers to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“It was just horrific,” co-owner Monica Richards told the Washington Post. “People don’t understand unless you’re in our business what it felt like, how hard it was to go through everything we went through during covid. For people to be negative toward us for trying to remain safe, so that this doesn’t continue to happen, just makes zero sense to us.”

Picos decided to maintain their mask mandate as the governor lifted the state-wide one.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) rescind the statewide mask mandate despite the fact that a vast majority of his state’s residents remain vulnerable to COVID-19. The governor has ignored the advice of his own public health officials who say the state should wait on lifting these mandates until their is a greater incidence of vaccination in communities.

With Abbotts order, Texas will become the largest state in the nation to no longer require masks, which has not come easily for many businesses that are navigating enforcement mask rules to protect employees and customers while facing backlash.

Experts agree that masks are among the most effective way to curb the spread of COVID-19, but they’ve also become a partisan symbol. Masks have become so symbolic that one conservative group is set to hold a mask burning party the day the order is lifted, according to the Washington Post.

Picos hasn’t been the only restaurant facing such a backlash.

In fact, another Mexican restaurant in Houston, Cantina Bar, has been the victim of similar threatening messages, while several staff have been intimidated by screaming customers who refuse to wear masks even while it was required by a state order. Another Houston Mexican restaurant, Cantina Barba, received similar intimidating messages, and staff have been bullied by some screaming customers who refused to wear masks while it was required statewide, co-owner Steven O’Sullivan said.

“This has been ongoing through covid,” co-owner Steven O’Sullivan told the Post. “We’ve had threats of calling ICE. I had one guy just stand there and berate one of my bartenders and tell her ‘you’re an absolute idiot, you don’t know what you’re doing. If you think these masks are going to save your life, you’re stupid’ blah, blah, blah. Nobody wants to deal with that stuff.”

Another employee at a separate restaurant had to get stitches after he was hit in the head with a glass by a maskless customer he approached, Houston Police said. Hopefully, the governor will still encourage his constituents to do what’s right and continue to wear masks when asked to do.

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