Juneteenth: A Case Study In Acceptable Holidays

One of the more obscure holidays on the American calendar is that of Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19th, the day the Emancipation Proclamation became known in Texas.  Given that I have a somewhat critical attitude towards the celebration of many days [1], it may come as a surprise that I view Juneteenth as an entirely legitimate festival.  This is no mere personal judgment, but rather has a logical reason.  Given the fact that Juneteenth is not well known, it makes for a worthwhile case study on how holidays can be categorized.  In order for us to place Juneteenth in its proper context, therefore, we need to know something about the day itself and also something about the categories of holidays based on biblical standards.

Juneteenth is a historical festival that celebrates the end of slavery.  After the Battle of Antietam, the issuing of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation [2] informed the world that the Civil War would become a war for the liberation of slaves in the Confederate States of America and not only a war of reunification against the traitors and rebels of the Southern United States.  A period of some months gave fair warning to the Confederacy that this change of policy would take place on January 1, 1863, at which point the Union armies became armies of liberation wherever they happened to go within Confederate territories.  This is only fair, as Confederate armies, wherever they traveled, were armies of slavery and kidnapping for free blacks wherever those armies traveled.  It took some time for the news to spread to the more remote corners of the rebel territory, and June 19th is the date at which it is judged to have reached Texas, the farthest flung of Confederate states.

Having given a brief summary of the day, it is worthwhile to then explain what categories of holidays exist.  There are, biblically speaking, three categories of holidays.  Some observances are commanded by God–the Sabbath and Holy Days, for example–for which observance is not optional if one wants to be obedient to the clearly expressed will of God.  Other holidays–those which are tainted with heathen worship practices and which are attempts at syncretism–are strictly forbidden.  The rest of the space consists of holidays that are permissible to celebrate but not required to celebrate.  Most of these days are historical days–independence days, memorial days, days of Thanksgiving, or days which give honor to those whom the Bible also honors, like fathers and mothers.  Juneteenth squarely falls as a historical day which is not connected to heathen worship but is also unconnected with scripture, and so its celebration is allowed by biblical principles but not commanded.

What might lead someone to want to celebrate such a day?  At least within my observation, Juneteenth is of the highest importance to descendants of freed slaves, for whom the Emancipation Proclamation marked the beginning of the national effort at repaying a longstanding debt of honor concerning the granting of full social and political equality to a substantial portion of the American people.  To be sure, there are other people who might want to celebrate the end of slavery, particularly those who celebrate Abraham Lincoln as well as more enthusiastic abolitionists whose eloquence helped pave the way for the eventual granting of freedom during a time of war over the paranoid desire on the part of rebels to protect what they viewed as their property from the threat of even eventual loss.  It is important to note that the Emancipation Proclamation did not pretend to end slavery within areas under the control of the federal government with loyal populations, but the fact that freedom from slavery became a war aim meant that slavery was doomed throughout the United States, and that is something well worth celebrating even today, lest we forget that great men (and women) and momentous times are often necessary for beneficial social change.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2012/04/30/may-day-the-curious-connection-between-paganism-and-socialism/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/02/16/christmas-and-mawlid-al-nabi-some-strange-parallels/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/07/11/if-i-forget-you-o-jerusalem-a-critical-analysis-of-the-observance-of-international-qums-day/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/03/28/easter-at-the-oregon-jewish-center/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2012/12/10/putting-the-saturn-back-in-saturnalia/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/06/19/book-review-lincolns-emancipation-proclamation/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/06/19/book-review-emancipating-lincoln/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American Civil War, American History, History, Musings and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s