I am optimistic about our national recognition of Juneteenth for a number of reasons. Let me explain.
Juneteenth is a helpful corrective to the hagiography of the founding era, including our founding documents and the individual founders. July 4, 1776, can rightly be referred to as our conception in liberty, but that’s about it. There was yet a revolution to be won and a nation to be built.
Juneteenth gives us occasion to review the despairs of slavery, the triumphs of freed slaves, the calamities of our Civil War, and the mixed legacy of Reconstruction. As much as we love to talk about the Bill of Rights, the average citizen is quite ignorant of the Reconstruction Amendments (13-15). The Reconstruction Amendments give teeth to individual liberties and establish a better, if not perfect, standard of equality under the law.
Related to my earlier point about hagiography, instead of mindlessly celebrating Thomas Jefferson every summer, I’m excited to discuss the important contributions of Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass (What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July) and other abolitionists, and the Union Army, including its colorful generals like Gordon Granger who enforced the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas on June 19, 1865.
Finally, we need more Chickamauga in our lives. I know Chickamauga is only tangentially related to Juneteenth, Granger played a significant role in saving the Union Army of the Cumberland, but I’ll take a few more Google searches and a few more clicks on pages related to Chickamauga. Thank God for Gordon Granger and his timely reserves!
So, Charlie Kirk et al, don’t be dumb. Juneteenth is a worthwhile addition to our national calendar and consciousness. We can handle some more history.