History of Juneteenth
A Personal Perspective in Tulsa
June 19th, 1865, is the date known as Juneteenth. Two years and six months after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, the news of freedom from the president of the united states reached the last slave plantations in Galveston, Texas. That news declared, "all persons held as slaves within rebellious states are and henceforward shall be free." This profound information is a piece of American history that should be honored and exalted in the self-proclaimed, "land of the free." However, very few Americans have heard of Juneteenth, and I prompt you to ask yourself, Why is that? Why do so few Americans know about the date when slavery really ended in America. Why are so many things hidden that are essential, relevant, and seemingly triumphant victories which ring true to the foundational American narrative that, "all men are created equal."
To answer the question as to why this victory and others like it are not praised with fireworks, mandatory time-off work, and 50% off sales, one would have to examine America's foundational principals. Are we living up to these principles, dissenting from them, or did the words in the founding documents, that we hold the highest reverence for, ever ring true in the first place?
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, " (The Preamble to the Declaration of Independence).
Are we living up to the words, "All men are created equal?" How can we analyze if America is living up to the words in the Declaration of Independence. With a country with a population so vast containing individual liberties, it's virtually impossible to analyze every person. We must focus on the one common denominator for all people in the United States, the United States Federal Government. Has our government lived up to the defining words? We look to case law, Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393, which was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court held that the U.S. Constitution was not meant to include American citizenship for Black people. If the federal government states that the founding documents of the United States do not apply to all men and women, how can we live up to those words? Of course, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was put into action to rectify the legacy of inequality, but it was fought with significant and violent opposition to reach its destination.
Are we dissenting from the words, "They are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness?" It is evident that America believes that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, but who are "They" that have these rights? America has been a country established by white men of power, wealth, and status from her birth. The Constitution states,
"We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America," (The Preamble to the Declaration of Independence).
A focus on the words, "Secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity," will likely clear up an understanding of who "They" are. Suppose it is true that the founding fathers did not fathom that anyone other than white men of power, wealth, and status could ever be considered a citizen of the united states. In that case, the words, "Secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity," are being dissented from their intended meaning with every act of inclusion, diversity, equity passed into law or even proposed.
Did the words ever ring true from the beginning? Did the founding fathers know that the Native American man was a man, and the African Man was a man and write down, "All men are created equal" and then live a life treating those men as less than equal, less than human? They prided themselves on fairness, honor, and high moral standard, which carries truth at the center of all three. It is difficult to believe that the founding fathers would create the country and its government believing a lie. Certainly, the founding fathers would have had to distance themselves from those other humans not as if they were above them because they believed all men are created equal, but that the Natives and Africans had to be below them and therefore not human, nor equal, nor endowed with, "Certain unalienable rights by their Creator."
The reason triumphs and victories about American people other than white men are hidden and rarely discussed is that the United States was not intended for those people to be afforded those freedoms, and celebrating that is unamerican at its core. As you move forward in the present day and age, you must ask yourself, What will I do with my limited individual liberties? What will I celebrate, and how can I help make the sacred gaffe of words from the founding fathers finally reign true for all Americans of today, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."
If you're African American, you know why we celebrate. If you're not, you can visit racismstinks.org to learn more about the role of being an ally.
Richard Zobon "Baxter," Brand Ambassador, Nonprofit Founder, Activist
"Negro Spiritual 121," otherwise known as Richard Zobon "Baxter," is the son of Liberian immigrants, and he works as a freelance paralegal in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He does legal research, and training for criminal defense clients, and their attorneys. Baxter first took an interest in the law while studying in the law library during his 121 year prison sentence for drug trafficking. After he researched his case and was awarded his release for illegal search and seizure, Baxter returned home to Tulsa. Upon his release he attended Tulsa Community College’s Paralegal Studies program and graduated with honors Phi Theta Kappa. Prior to embracing the entrepreneur lifestyle Baxter worked as a Bail Disruptor for The Bail Project, a national undertaking on bail reform. He also worked as a paralegal for Tate Law Firm, Arbital Law, and interned at the Tulsa Public Defender’s Office. As a formerly incarcerated person, Baxter founded the nonprofit, #racismstinks, which hosts educational events such as the annual Race Against Racism. In addition, Baxter teaches a class called “Home Safe,” to inform citizens how to protect themselves while encountered with law enforcement. Baxter hosts a weekly podcast where he tackles the national and local political and social issues of the day, and how they affect the North Tulsa community. He is one of 3 hosts on his radio show, "Negro Nights," a popular weekly radio broadcast in North Tulsa, featuring interviews with political and community leaders.