Africans In America: A Historical Perspective Of Juneteenth

sainey faye By Sainey Faye 

“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 of property between former masters and slaves and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.The freemen are advised to remain 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.”

“General Order No. 3” 

Texas, or rather the state of Texas was part of Mexico (Spanish); until it was annexed in 1836 by American colonists and European settlers.Three years later in1839, they proclaimed it a Republic – a sovereign state, but could not join the Union
until six years after, on December 29th, 1845 when it became a state of the United States.

In1800, some records indicate that there were nearly 900,000 – 1,000,000 African slaves in the continental United States.By1860 or three years before the Civil War, they were estimated to be 4 million African slaves in the U.S. Texas had the 10th largest African slave population – a quarter million by end of the Civil War in 1865. 

This meant that 30% of residents of the state of Texas were slaves; in a state that was barely twenty years after it joined the Union. It’s literacy rate was not very good, nearly 95% or more of the slaves were illiterates.Itis no wonder, that it seceded from the Union to protect its major interest and profits from slavery and the slave plantation. 

It is also no wonder that she had to fight to death to preserve slavery and the confederacy during
the Civil War; even after she lost; she just could not survive without free African slave labour. Deliberately, it waited two and a half years to let the slaves know about their emancipation – even then it had no choice, because the Union soldiers who defeated them; had the order to proclaim and enforce it. Africans fought on both sides – Mexican/American civil war in Texas, when America took Mexico’s territory (Texas) by force, just as it did to the native Indian population.Thus, Africans also contributed to modern and ancient Mexico’s formation by the millions. 

On this date in the U.S.A , Africans in the state of Texas, U.S.A. celebrate their emancipation from slavery on June 19th, 1865.Briefly, the story goes thus: The end of slavery in the U.S. was proclaimed in Galveston, Texas in June 19, 1865.; two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation that freed all slaves in the U.S. Slave holders and plantation owners did not enforce nor let their captive African slaves know of this law. Inprinciple and by law; Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was made in January 1, 1863; and it states clearly that slaves or enslaved were free by law in the U.S. That meant all slaves and people in bondage especially the African slaves.Indeed, African slaves help free themselves and the Union soldiers by fighting fiercely, courageously, and capturing major strongholds that the union forces could not capture. Frederick Douglas had advised Lincoln to free the slaves earlier on to join the war on theirside. But he hesitated about African slaves being freed to fight against their masters, armed to the teeth, they just might over run and take over the Southern slave plantations — and that’s what exactly happened. Inless than 15 months after they joined, the war
was over in the the rebel south. He was said to tell Frederick Douglas about the gallant African fighters and the battles they won and how quickly they help end the war to his surprise. Douglas was said to have told him …..’I told you to Free The Slaves, Free them……They know how to fight If they havebthe weapons their enemy has’ and history proved him right. The war ended with
the defeat of Texas and the the Confederate South. 

But it wasn’t enforced in the entire nation; pandespecially in a state like Texas, until Gen. Lee was defeated and had to surrender to the Union forces in April, 1865. The message read by the commanding major general read an executive orderalso known as “General Order Number 3” – which specifically stated the end of the Civil War ; and that all slaves were free henceforth. Can you imagine the jubilation and joy of the African masses in the plantations? Some historians said that the news spread like a brush fire to all the plantations; and there were celebrations; and thousands left in a hurry heading north or anywhere but Texas, with the little they can gather. Asyears passed, right up to today, the Africanmdescendants still celebrate it as America’s “2nd Independence Day” – or, the oldest known celebration by Africans commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. They call it JUNETEENTH. 

If indeed today – a century and a half; African immigrants are being hounded, hunted, and rounded by the INS, ICE, and other law enforcement as illegal, the paradox becomes

They even juxtapose and confuse what is ‘illegal’ as oppose to ‘illegal status’ , and critics wonder – how does a person become illegal ….seriously? The case for Africans they claim must be looked at and studied again, and again, for theirs is the only one forced from their motherland; unlike Europeans and many others who came on their own volition.

Besides, after the civil war they were supposed to be paid some land – ’40 Acres & A Mule’,  many modern advocates say they can forgo the mule – but the land they can use and need. 

The nation paid reparations to the slave holders, and not the slaves.The market value of the slaves far exceeded the banks and the factories at that time, Wall Street & NYSE grew richer.

Texas, and indeed the U.S. need to be thankful for the sacrifices Africans made in making it a viable state; and breaking the backbone of slavery in the antebellum South once and for all. America’s “2nd Independence Day” celebration by African descendants in Texas, is also known as JUNETEENTH. Itwould be nice and great if America knew what the Africans did, to make her what she is today. ……in the words of the late Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois. 


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *