On Saturday, we celebrate Juneteenth, the day 145 years ago when news finally made its way to Texas that slavery was no longer the law of the land. It was on June 19th 1865 that Union soldiers arrived at Galveston, Texas with word that the Civil War had ended and that enslaved Africans in the region were free.
This occurred two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation since the measure had little impact on Texas given a lack of Union troops in the area to enforce it until the 1865 surrender of the Confederacy.
While we celebrate this fascinating bit of history and the newfound freedom of our ancestors in Texas this weekend, we also should acknowledge the recent threats to such freedoms that risk throwing us all back to a darker time in our country’s past.
Let me explain. Way back in the 19th Century –prior to Juneteenth– down in Texas, people of color were stopped when traveling away from the plantation and told to produce their papers showing that they’d been given permission to move about. Even if they had the correct papers, they were commonly harassed by authorities.
Sadly, here in the year 2010 –in so-called ‘post racial America’– the state of Texas is currently considering taking Arizona’s lead and introducing legislation where Texas authorities can, once again, stop, potentially harass, and ask people of color for their papers.
And those of you who think these disturbing legal measures don’t pertain to us as black folk best think again.