June 18, 2021
Juneteenth Federal Holiday:
Are We Really Free? 
Men playing music at a Juneteenth celebration, Eastwoods Park, Austin, Texas, c. 1900.
It was not until 1865 that Union troops arrived in Texas to enforce President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, with General Gordon Granger announcing on June 19th, mostly to those who already knew of Emancipation, that it was now to be officially implemented. Subsequently, as mixed media artist Napoleon Jones-Henderson explained, “there were three days of… celebration. People had picnics, and people just enjoyed themselves out from under that yolk. And… it continued on as a yearly celebration.”[1] Mayor Coy Payne (1929 - 2019), the first African American mayor elected in the State of Arizona, grew up in Texas, and had fond memories of the local holiday: “On the 19th of June… Dad [Scott Payne] would never work… 'cause that was the day that we were freed, and he was going to celebrate that… Usually we went fishing and we had fish fries, or we had a picnic where the community came together.”[2] Baseball player and newspaper publisher William Blair, Jr. (1921 - 2014) also remembered: “19th of June in Texas was a great day… I was in the [U.S.] Army up in North Carolina… and the 19th of June came. I thought they celebrate the 19th of June all over the South… [But] People never heard of that.”[3]
Watch Night New Year’s Eve church service, Grafton, Virginia, 1863.
Others observe the days Emancipation reached their states. Elementary school teacher Ollie Taylor recalled: “In Tallahassee [Florida], [Emancipation Day] was May 20th and… he [her father, Major Thompson, Sr.] would keep us home [from school]… all the family came from all over… it would be a big picnic, and we had that Kool-Aid from the barrel, and… Pound cake… most of the parents kept their kids home and… they celebrated.”[4] Likewise, “Washington D.C., celebrates Emancipation Day on April 16, the date Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act. Some counties in Tennessee, for example, observe Emancipation Day on Aug. 8… Ohio has recognized Sept. 22 as Emancipation Day since 2006.”[5] January 1 has been another important Emancipation holiday, known as Watch Night, “a New Year’s Eve service that dates back to when enslaved people stayed up to watch for freedom because the Emancipation Proclamation took effect on Jan. 1, 1863.”[6] This was the case for civil rights leader Reverend Dr. C.T. Vivian (1924-2020): “Emancipation Proclamation day… January 1… that's a very important day… there is at least one church that has a big observance and everybody goes there.”[7]
The order read by Colonel Granger in Galveston, Texas, June 19, 1865, reprinted by The Galveston Daily News, June 21, 1865.
Texas-based journalist Norma Adams-Wade told the popularized story of Juneteenth that is replicated in the media: “The story is that when Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the news didn't make it to Texas until two years later in '65 [1865] and so Colonel [Gordon] Granger from the Union Army came down to Galveston [Texas] and stood on the banks of the boat in the river and read the Proclamation and that's how blacks in Texas learned that we were now free. June 19th became the celebration day because that's when it was read and every year after that Texas blacks would have this big celebration and it became known as Juneteenth… You would eat watermelon and drink red soda pop and have all the standard picnic foods and just have a good old time, just a regular celebration of freedom for African Americans.”[8] The news of Emancipation, however, reached Texas at the same time it reached everywhere else in the U.S.: on January 1, 1863 via telegraph from the War Department. News regarding Emancipation was printed in over 100 newspapers across Texas, making the Proclamation common knowledge there. However, like other states, local authorities refused to enforce the provisions, as the Texas Confederate constitution prohibited freeing enslaved people.[9]
President Joe Biden signing into law Juneteenth as a federal holiday, June 17, 2021.
As Juneteenth becomes a federal holiday in honor of the end of slavery of the United States (despite African Americans remaining enslaved in some areas in Indian Territory until 1866), the question we need to ask ourselves is what does all of this ultimately mean, except another day off from work? 
Ratio of proportion in poverty relative to total population by race and age, compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau, 2020.
At the same time this holiday is made federal, conservatives seek to ban critical race theory discussion in schools, states are making voting more difficult to the potential harm of African Americans and other minorities, and “diversity positions” are being promoted and filled at an increasing rate at corporations, but with no real game plan in palce. We also need to consider that African Americans make up 38% of the prison population despite representing 14% of the U.S. population, with 18.8% still living below the poverty line with an average life expectancy five years less than white Americans.[10][11]
Only time will tell what impact the federal Juneteenth holiday will have on society. Will it actually free American society of its racism or the African American community of all the vestiges of its enslaved past? No federal holiday can do that, but what is clear is that we still live in a world when where so many know so little know about the African American experience. 
The HistoryMakers Digital Archive homepage. 
That is where The HistoryMakers comes in. Take a look at our website (www.thehistorymakers.org) or consider subscribing to The HistoryMakers Digital Archive: www.thehistorymakers.org/digital-archives

With knowledge, comes freedom!
Father's Day: "Love You,
Daddy... Pops... Dad."
A father smiles with his baby, undated.
Father’s Day is here and with it, the chance to celebrate the fathers our lives. 
Left to right: Nelvia Brady as a baby, her father, David Moore, and her older brother, Allen Moore, c. 1950.
Academic administrator and education administrator Nelvia M. Brady in her interview remembered her father, David Moore: “My father was a tough guy... He has a Bronze Star [awarded for combat heroism or for meritorious service]… his ship sank. And he was given a medal… for saving a couple of other guys after the ship was wrecked, spending two or three days on the water… He told us about… how racist the military was and how they couldn't have the jobs that the other guys had and he was relegated to a cook… When he died, I took his papers and started to go through some of them and read in detail about this and he was truly a hero and we never knew.”[12]
Robert P. Madison’s father Robert J. Madison (far left) coaching the Selma University baseball team, Alabama,
c. 1928-1929.
Architect Robert P. Madison, founder of Robert P. Madison International, the first African American architecture firm in Ohio, told of his father, Robert J. Madison, who “had to work during the night at the post office while he went to school in the daytime... He was one of the honor students in the engineering school… the [Great] Depression… was very destructive for us… he was laid off, he couldn't get a job because he was too well educated for the jobs that were available… and those jobs he was qualified for they wouldn't hire him because he was black… he drove a taxicab for a while, he was a caddy at a golf course, and I find myself somewhat resentful to see my father, with the college degree… out there carrying the golf clubs… But he did it, and one thing is that he was absolutely determined that we would make the best of our opportunities, no matter what the obstacles were out there, and I'm sure that a part of my drive now is to overcome some of those things he could not.”[13]
Left: Thirteen year old boy on a sharecropping farm near Americus, Georgia, July 1937.
Right: C. Jack Ellis, mayor of Macon, Georgia where he grew up on a sharecropping farm, 2000.
Mayor C. Jack Ellis, the first African American mayor of Macon, Georgia, was also greatly inspired by his father’s perseverance: “My father [William Ellis] was my hero… I'm one of thirteen children… I always admired… how hard he would work and how he would make sure that we were provided for … He started as a sharecropper when I was born but later he acquired his own little piece of land… My father was an entrepreneur... [he was] a man that can take care of thirteen children… with the sweat of his brow. I never recall him being on any type of welfare or us being on any type of assistance or things of that nature. So he was my hero. I look up to him mightily.”[14]
Left: Quinton Westbrook working as a guard at Erie County Correctional Facility where he became a captain, undated.
Right: Quinton Westbrook and his daughter Jolette after she received her J.D. degree from Northeastern University School of Law, 1981.
Lawyer Jolette Westbrook remembered how her father shaped her career: “People used to say to me growing up that I was Quinton Westbrook's daughter, and now I can appreciate why they said that. He was just a wonderful, wonderful father, role model, provider. He worked very hard… When I was maybe fourteen or fifteen, we got in his VW [Volkswagen] truck… And we went to the Erie County Correctional Facility [Alden, New York]. And we went in, and I saw inmates… And my father said, ‘This is not a place you will ever go to… You don't do anything wrong; you respect people; you respect the law...’ That made such a deep impression on me… I started off doing criminal law in my career. And every time I would walk into a prison… or walk into a courthouse… lockup, I could always remember the time that my father took me to the county jail… And I just wonder what would happen if the people who are behind bars, if they had that opportunity, if they had that role model, if they had that figure, to… say this is not a place where you will be going.”[15]
Left: Eagle Scouts, c. 1961-1962.
Right: Leo Brooks, Sr. (far left) giving one of his sons, Leo Brooks, Jr. (far right), his commissioning oath at West Point, June 6, 1979.
Jazz historian Michael White fondly recalled his father, Oscar White, Jr., who served as a role model for not only himself, but to many young boys in the area: “He was a Boy Scout [Boy Scouts of America] leader… it's only in later years that I realize how important that was to spend more than twenty-five years serving as a mentor and a father figure… to really hundreds of boys who in many cases didn't have that… Many of them became prominent citizens… One of them is a high ranking police officer; another became a chef; several others went on to have prominent roles in government and politics… My father taught with a military type discipline. He was very strict, but he also believed in having a good time... He taught people how to survive: how to dig latrines, how to cook, how to hunt, how to shoot… we would go boating, canoeing, fishing… So, that was… very important for a lot of kids to learn… the things that he taught them.”[16] General Vincent K. Brooks, the first African American at West Point to be named cadet brigade commander, also saw the value in a strong male role model, and seeks to be that for others: “My father [Brigadier General Leo A. Brooks, Sr.] was absolutely my life. This is one of those things that I think is one of the great blessings that I enjoy, and not everyone can… the men in my life, the fathers, the uncles were abundant. And I was fortunate… And so in many ways, I'm a surrogate father to a lot of military men whose fathers left them early in life… I spend lots of time with men like that… trying to be that for them because I know how important it is.”[17]
A father helping his son ride a bike, c. 1970s.
This weekend we celebrate fathers and father figures who mold and serve as critical role models for their children and other young people. May we remember and cherish all that they do. Love you Daddy, Pops, Dad, Grandad, Uncle… Love YOU! 
[1] Napoleon Jones-Henderson (The HistoryMakers A2013.009), interviewed by Larry Crowe, April 22, 2013, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 5, Napoleon Jones-Henderson talks about the history of Juneteenth and Emancipation Day celebrations across the United States.
[2] The Honorable Coy Payne (The HistoryMakers A2007.203), interviewed by Jacques Lesure, July 11, 2007, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 10, The Honorable Coy Payne remembers celebrating Juneteenth.
[3] William Blair, Jr. (The HistoryMakers A2006.085), interviewed by Denise Gines, May 2, 2006, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 7, William Blair, Jr. remembers celebrating holidays with his family.
[4] Ollie Taylor (The HistoryMakers A2012.189), interviewed by Larry Crowe, August 13, 2012, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 2, Ollie Taylor remembers celebrating Emancipation Day.
[5] Afi-Odelia Scruggs. “Five myths about Juneteenth,” Washington Post, June 18, 2020, accessed June 15, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/five-myths/juneteenth-holiday-five-myths/2020/06/18/4c19fff8-b0e1-11ea-8758-bfd1d045525a_story.html
[6] Ibid.
[7] Reverend Dr. C.T. Vivian (The HistoryMakers A2004.020), interviewed by Larry Crowe, March 7, 2004, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 4, story 4, C. T. Vivian details the activities in organizing the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
[8] Norma Adams-Wade (The HistoryMakers A2014.083), interviewed by Larry Crowe, March 6, 2014, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 5, Norma Adams-Wade talks about the Juneteenth tradition in Mexia, Texas.
[9] Scruggs, “Five myths about Juneteenth,” Washington Post, accessed June 15, 2021. 
[10] “Inmate Race,” Federal Bureau of Prisons, accessed June 17, 2021. https://www.bop.gov/about/statistics/statistics_inmate_race.jsp
[11] “U.S. Poverty Statistics,” Federal Safety Net, September 2020, accessed June 17, 2021. http://federalsafetynet.com/us-poverty-statistics.html
[12] Nelvia M. Brady (The HistoryMakers A2003.205), interviewed by Larry Crowe, August 26, 2003, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 5, Nelvia Brady speaks about her father.
[13] Robert P. Madison (The HistoryMakers A2004.026), interviewed by Regennia Williams, March 17, 2004, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 7, Robert P. Madison describes his father's career.
[14] The Honorable C. Jack Ellis (The HistoryMakers A2011.027), interviewed by Denise Gines, April 22, 2011, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 5, The Honorable C. Jack Ellis describes his father's work ethic.
[15] The Honorable Jolette Westbrook (The HistoryMakers A2007.065), interviewed by Larry Crowe, February 13, 2007, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 7, The Honorable Jolette Westbrook describes her father's personality.
[16] Michael White (The HistoryMakers A2010.041), interviewed by Denise Gines, June 7, 2010, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 6, Michael White remembers his father's organizational activities.
[17] Gen. Vincent Brooks (The HistoryMakers A2013.171), interviewed by Larry Crowe, June 21, 2013, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 3, story 10, Vincent Brook talks about his relationship with his father, and growing up in a close-knit family with male role models.