To the editor:
When Rev. Martin Luther King Day was first introduced, there were years of highly visible debate before Congress acted, and a year or so before implementation. Many states had already enacted their own versions. Contrast that with Juneteenth: rushed into law the day after a Congress full of spineless Republican opposition caved on command from its leadership, even though only a few states had laws recognizing this as a holiday and it was not on the general public’s radar.
Juneteenth is appropriately, and has been for decades, a Texas state holiday because it was a momentous event in Texas’ history. It was not an event in the states which did not have slavery, such as Michigan and Pennsylvania, or the states admitted later, such as Wyoming and Alaska.
Nor does that date commemorate the end of slavery even in most of the states which still had it, such as Delaware, Kentucky and even a few New Jersey slaves born before New Jersey’s 1804 gradual emancipation act. Ending slavery in these states required the 13th Amendment, which was not ratified until December 1865.
To obtain the requisite two-thirds vote in the House of Representatives, President Abraham Lincoln instructed some of his cabinet members and congressional allies to procure votes by any means necessary; they promised government posts and campaign contributions and even maintained a large fund for direct bribes, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Thirteenth_Amendment_to_the_ United_States_Constitution.
Lincoln understood that his emancipation order might not withstand judicial scrutiny once hostilities had ended and thereby had mooted the order’s stated purpose of depriving the rebellion of its slaves’ services. Even in the seceded states, many slaves had already “walked off the job” and migrated to Union-held territory years before Juneteenth and even before Lincoln’s emancipation order.
Chattel slavery in the United States ended 156 years ago, except in the Indian Territory where it officially endured one more year until the U.S. government compelled the tribes allied with the Confederacy to free their slaves. This is way too long ago for our country to have done without this holiday to insist that there is something about now that necessitates it.
-Dino Drudi, Alexandria