Reflections upon Juneteenth and “White Guilt”
By Dennis Jamison —June 20, 2020
This past Tuesday, Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) proved himself to be an utter embarrassment to the good people of Virginia in a speech he gave in the Senate by his claim that the United States “created” slavery and “didn’t inherit slavery from anybody.” Senator Kaine was giving a speech in support of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, a bill that Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA.) jointly introduced into the Senate. Tim Kaine may want to check reputable history books rather than relying primarily upon the pious propaganda from the New York Times’ “1619 Project,” which is an outright distortion of American history.
Kaine recently urged fellow senators to “dismantle the structures of racism that our federal, state, and local governments carefully erected and maintained over centuries.” Kaine the anti-historian has explained:
The first African Americans sent into the English colonies…were slaves, they had been captured against their will, but they landed in colonies that didn’t have slavery — there were no laws about slavery in the colonies at that time… The United States didn’t inherit slavery from anybody. We created it. It got created by the Virginia General Assembly and the legislatures of other states. It got created by the court systems in colonial America that enforced fugitive slave laws.
What Kaine would be challenged to explain, either due to ignorance or deception, is the the “Virginia General Assembly” in 1619 consisted of the royal Governor appointed by the King of England, a Council of State appointed by the Virginia Company, as well as 22 local land owners, elected only by owners of land via the Virginia Company, via the permission from the King of England. That was how monarchy operated in 1619. Kaine could also be challenged to explain that the War for Independence from British tyranny did not simply end the slavery that had been implemented on the plantations. Kaine may do well to catch up by reading the Declaration of Independence that condemned the King for allowing colonies to be poisoned by slavery.
Kaine is a Virginian, yet historically challenged, and he would likely not be aware of the pains it took for another Virginian, former President George Washington, to free his slaves in that state, even after victory over the daunting British government. The laws supporting the “peculiar institution of African slavery” were established by the British government. George Washington did free his slaves, but revisionist historians omit this history. Yet, Washington’s actions of freeing his slaves were quite controversial in the time he lived. Despite fierce opposition and severe resistance, he made it happen.
Despite Washington’s misgivings about slavery after he helped win independence for the United States, Washington had to fight to change the laws of Virginia that would allow a slave owner to free his slaves. During the period prior to 1782, British colonial law in Virginia restricted slave owners in their efforts to free their slaves. A slave owner could only set a slave free for “meritorious service” and only with the approval of the Governor and his selected “council” (other landed slave owners). However, in 1782, with the help of former Virginia governor, Thomas Jefferson, Washington managed to repeal the old British law regarding manumission of slaves. Emancipation of slaves under the new U.S. law was permitted through a split allocation in a deed from the sale of land, or through one’s last will and testament.
Washington had tried in vain to sell his property. Ultimately, a few months before he passed away, he drafted his last Will and testament that stipulated the freeing of all of his slaves upon Martha’s death. He had lamented that he wished he could free all the slaves at Mt. Vernon, but they did not all belong to him. Some belonged to Martha’s heirs, and they were not even hers to free under the state law.
Complicating this inheritance issue was the fact that over the years after their marriage, Washington’s slaves had intermarried with Martha’s slaves, and law required that they would have to be returned or taken in by the heirs of her first husband. If Washington freed his slaves without being able to free Martha’s slaves, it would have divided the various families, and that was something Washington did not want to do.
Washington also stipulated in his will that the elderly ex-slaves would be provided for, specifically clothed and fed, by his direct heirs, and the younger, freed children would be taught to read, to write, and some valuable trade in order to provide support for themselves. Martha Washington actually carried out her husband’s wishes to free the slaves within twelve months of his death and ultimately allowed them to stay on at Mt. Vernon if they had family members there.
Indeed, former President George Washington was a man ahead of his time because his personal emancipation of his slaves set the precedent for another president to create another Emancipation Proclamation, but it proved as controversial as Washington’s emancipation.
Juneteenth was the outcome of the practical fulfillment of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth was initially celebrated upon announcement of Union Army “General Order No. 3” in Galveston, Texas. However, this military order was a military mandate. The southern Democrats had preferred to fight to hold onto their “rights” to own other human beings. There was no intent to follow any precedent that had been set by George Washington or the northern states. The Democrat slave owners had to be forced by the Union military to emancipate their slaves.
Unfortunately, President Lincoln was murdered in April, less than a week after the Civil War ended, so any basis for his plans for freeing the slaves was handled by the Union Army. And unfortunately, over 620,000 men and boys died during the American Civil War. Americans just celebrated Memorial Day at the end of May, a holiday born from the ashes and loss during the Civil War. This Sunday, Americans celebrate Father’s Day, but consider this: over 300,000 boys and men died so that freedom could be extended to the former slaves. Among those who gave their lives for that freedom, there were so many fathers and would be fathers whose lives were cut short because the evil of slavery had to be rectified.
Juneteenth should be celebrated because liberation should be celebrated. Juneteenth should be celebrated without “white guilt.” 300,000 plus boys and men paid in blood for the sins of slavery in America owners. Their blood should wipe away any “white guilt” unless of course, like Tim Kaine and the Democrats, people get fixated upon it and want to displace their guilt upon their willing victims. Fanning the flames of racism (historical, institutionalized, or manufactured) keeps American citizens prisoners to the past.
Juneteenth should continue to be celebrated as Freedom Day for all people because a victory over tyranny should always be celebrated.