John Stonestreet and David Carlson on Juneteenth: A Day All Americans Should Commemorate

People of different races hold hands as they gather on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. bridge in Charleston, North Carolina after the first service at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church since a mass shooting left nine people dead. June 21, 2015. | (Photo: Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

Since I wasn’t even alive in 1968, I’ll defer to Boomers and historians to tell us whether the country was more divided back then or today. In my lifetime, however, I can confidently say that the racial, political, economic, and ideological polarization has never been worse, nor has the violence and outrage. 

No matter the issue, from public policy to personal morality to global health, people seem to immediately run to their ideological and political corners: No discussion, little charity, less concern about the requirements of a common life together, but a lot of yelling. It’s difficult to imagine a people less able to accomplish a life together than us, with no shared vision and no shared memory.

Friday, however, offers us an opportunity to come out of our ideological and political corners and agree to commemorate a significant day in American history. Every American, regardless of politics or background, should reflect on a day marked in many African American communities for over 150 years.

June 19th is Juneteenth, the anniversary of the day in 1865 in which the particularly vicious evil of chattel slavery effectively came to an end in this country. Here’s the history.

In 1862, President Lincoln issued the most famous executive order in history, known as the Emancipation Proclamation. “…on the first day of January,” read the order, “in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State … in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward and forever free.”

With this order, Lincoln only declared the emancipation of slaves within the Confederacy. Pro-Union border states and even areas in the South controlled by Union troops were not “in rebellion against the United States.” Practically speaking, the Emancipation Proclamation was more symbolic than effective.

The surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox in April of 1865 signaled the end of the Confederacy and foresaw the final end of slavery. Even then, however, pockets of resistance persisted. Emancipation would have to be enforced.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, John Stonestreet and David Carlson