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  • Reverend James Squire

Juneteenth And Fathers' Day

Monday, June 19, 2023 is Juneteenth when the final word of freedom reached those who had been enslaved living in Galveston, Texas in 1865. As I reflect on this day, I am grateful to CNN and the writings of Heather Cox Richardson in two of her books for the impetus of my thought.

CNN has a commentary on Juneteenth that are three myths that should be removed from Black History. Juneteenth reminds us that the Civil War did not achieve instant freedom for slaves. Many slaves were kept in slavery until their white owners were forced to give them their freedom. Slavery did not end on a given day as much as it was a process that included brutal treatment of slaves. Growing up, I had always thought that the Emancipation Proclamation was given and the slaves were instantly freed. That is what I was taught years ago.

I was also taught that slaves had no roots or culture except what the slave owners permitted them to have. I didn’t know that the Statue of Liberty was originally built to celebrate the end of slavery and not to welcome immigrants. When we took a field trip to the Statue of Liberty, I remember that the museum there was really a history of immigration. Nothing was said about black people.

A slave pioneered the development of a treatment to help those in our country survive smallpox. It was something that he brought from Africa. There was no mention of that in my history classes either. Country music was inspired by Slave Spirituals. Bugs Bunny and other cartoon tales such as Brer Rabbit and other talking animals were inspired by slave folktales.

There was a Slave Bible brought by British Missionaries that had any passages that would inspire liberation blacked out. 90% of the Old Testament and half of the New Testament were removed. The slaves later discovered the stories in the Old Testament such as the Jews fleeing the oppression of the Pharoah and making their way to the promised land.

However, there is a myth about black women that I think is true. This is both an informal and formal observation. In just the last week there have been stories of black athletes in Philadelphia who have indicated that it was their mothers, sometimes working two jobs, that gave these athletes a chance to develop their skills. The power of black women is on the rise, and we will be a better nation because of it. Black women have been instrumental in the civil rights movement since its very beginning. You do not hear enough about them. There is a movement as well to empower black fathers.

I did a more formal investigation of the power of black women in a major paper that I did while at the graduate school at Duke and working at the Duke Medical Center on becoming a therapist/counselor. You didn’t go to Duke Medical Center for a routine medical issue. It was for challenging medical conditions that are referred there. I have two friends who are currently there fighting high stakes cancers. I counseled many black women who were poor. I noticed something about them. We have all heard the statement “take one day at a time.” These women tended to “take it one minute at a time.” They were focused on both their future and now at the same time. My observations were written in a paper, The Existential Notion of Intentional Time in Black Women.

Let’s keep in mind that It was a woman, Sonora Scott Dodd, in 1908 who was inspired by a Mother’s Day sermon to bring about a day to celebrate fathers.

I would recommend two books by Heather Cox Richardson that are a context for Juneteenth. They are How The South Won The Civil War and To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party. It will also help you to see that the problems of today have been around since the dawn of our democracy. We often forget that Lincoln was a Republican.

Governor DeSantis issued a proclamation on Friday that took note of the day that slavery ended, but it is NOT a national holiday there. The birthdays of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis ARE public holidays. WHAT MESSAGE DOES THAT SEND TO THE PEOPLE OF FLORIDA, BLACK OR WHITE?

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