On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordan Granger issued five general orders on Galveston island. One of those general orders was general order number three that freed the enslaved people of Texas. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862 to go into effect January 1, 1863, but southern states did not recognize President Lincoln as their President and ignored the proclamation.
American slavery would not officially end until the ratification of the 13th Amendment in December 1865. The first official end of slavery celebration in Galveston was held on January 1, 1866. The former enslaved people of Galveston and Texas began having annual freedom celebrations on June 19th later known as Juneteenth.
The former enslaved people of Texas chose for themselves to celebrate Juneteenth as their Independence Day long before it became an official state holiday. The former enslaved people heard the words “absolute equality” in general order number three and believed them.
Unfortunately, the former enslaved people did not realize the future would not bring absolute equality. Throughout the Reconstruction period of 1865 to 1877, former enslaved people and free Black citizens had to fight for equal rights. The Compromise of 1877 erased years of progress and still today many Black citizens do not have absolute equality.
Wanting absolute equality is not a desire for equal results. Wanting absolute equality is about creating a society that supports all to become his or her very best self for the benefit of the collective community. Black citizens are still waiting for absolute equality to be a reality in America.
The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments were all passed over 150 years ago, but absolute equality was not possible because of convict leasing, Black Codes, and Jim Crow laws. Separate, but equal laws made it impossible to have absolute equality.
During the early 1900’s, the Lost Cause message exaggerated stories of heritage that was accepted as history. Dr. David Lowenthal said, “Heritage should not be confused with history. History seeks to convince by truth … Heritage exaggerates and omits, candidly admits and frankly forgets, and thrives on ignorance and error.”
Our society still suffers today from this ignorance. Many cling to false narrative of the heritage they were taught and are unable to accept the true history that America has never achieved the goal of absolute equality.
The Civil Rights movement was needed because there was not absolute equality for all citizens. American laws should have been enforced to provide equal protection for all, but they were not.
We are a little over 50 years removed from the Civil Rights movement of the late 1960’s. Many citizens all over the country and world are fighting for a world that will have absolute equality. A difference in this current movement from the 1960’s is there now seems to be more non-Black citizens joining the effort to fight for absolute equality.
Unfortunately the Black Lives Matter movement message is being interpreted as a Black only movement by some non-supporters of BLM. It has also been assumed that BLM supporters are anti-police. BLM supporters are anti-bad police. There is a big difference.
We should all support the rights of individuals to peacefully protest. We should all condemn acts of violence against innocent people. If individuals want to understand why people loot, I suggest reviewing a 1968 interview of James Baldwin titled, “How to cool it.”
In the interview Baldwin said, “On television, you always see Black hands reaching in, you know. And so the American public concludes that these savages are trying to steal everything from us. And no one has seriously tried to get where the trouble is. After all, you're accusing a captive population, who has been robbed of everything, of looting. I think it's obscene.”
Where is the trouble? The trouble is in the cracked foundation of America because “we” the people didn’t include all people. That is the problem. For too long, “we” and “all” didn’t mean everyone.
One hundred fifty-five years after General Granger penned the words “absolute equality” in general order number three, people are still protesting and fighting to achieve that goal of absolute equality.
Union soldiers won the fight in 1865 for freedom because they did not stop fighting. The Civil War was over, but the job was incomplete. It is our turn to fight for absolute equality in hopes this time the victory will achieve the goal of a true free society.