Juneteenth: A perfect day to cheer Black success
On Monday, America observes its second Juneteenth national holiday. Some people will use the occasion to focus on the severe pain and death that slavery inflicted on Blacks in the South between 1619 and 1865. It would be far more useful, however, to celebrate so much that Black Americans have accomplished since the original Juneteenth liberated the last of some 4 million emancipated slaves.
That joyous day arrived on June 19, 1865. Having vanquished the Confederacy that April, victorious Union Army soldiers arrived at Galveston, Texas. They encountered that final group of slaves who had yet to learn that the South had fallen.
More important, the men in blue uniforms read General Order No. 3 to people who, until then, were private property: “All slaves are free.” Henceforth, these Black men, women, and children belonged to themselves, not others.
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Republican-led Reconstruction efforts initially offered Blacks much hope. Some former slaves represented the South in Congress.
In this June 19, 2020 file photo, fireworks explode during Juneteenth celebrations above the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in the Brooklyn borough of New York. The Manhattan skyline is seen in the background. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
Alas, Democrats got the upper hand as Reconstruction faltered, and they dug their heels into Black necks. But despite the oppression of Democrat-enforced Jim Crow laws and the terror imposed by the Democrat-founded and manned Ku Klux Klan, Blacks capitalized on the opportunities that America offered, first grudgingly and then with increasing enthusiasm. Since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 torpedoed Democrat-operated systemic racism in the South, millions of Blacks have flourished across America.
If he were alive, Dr. Martin Luther King would likely argue that — while room to rise remains — his Dream has come true.
Booker T. Washington, climbed “Up from Slavery,” as his fascinating memoir details. Born as his master’s possession in 1856, Washington was free but spectacularly poor after the first Juneteenth. At one point, he slept beneath a raised sidewalk in Richmond, Virginia.
Vintage engraving of Abraham Lincoln, after a photograph made in early 1865. Stains and age spots are authentic and add to the character of the portrait. Published in an 1872 book, the image is now in the public domain. Digital restoration by Steven Wynn Photography.
Washington soon educated himself, and then others. He founded Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute on July 4, 1881. It was among the first Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
DEROY MURDOCK: BLACK SUCCESS MATTERS — AND AMERICA SHOULD CELEBRATE AND CULTIVATE IT
Washington wrote and lectured widely and became the White House’s first Black dinner guest when Republican President Theodore Roosevelt welcomed him in October 1901.
Madam C.J. Walker became America’s first female millionaire entrepreneur. She earned her fortune in the early 1900s by marketing hair-care products to fellow blacks. By selling Afro Sheen before Afro Sheen, she made enough money to buy a mansion in posh Westchester, New York, near that of John D. Rockefeller.
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The Netflix mini-series “Self-Made” dramatizes Walker’s amazing life. It stars Octavia Spencer, a Black success story in her own right and an Academy Award winner, along with Sidney Poitier, Isaac Hayes, Whoopi Goldberg, Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, and numerous other exceptional Black filmmakers.
Octavia Spencer attends the Los Angeles Premiere of Amazon Studios’ "Encounter" at Directors Guild of America on December 2, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
Black musicians Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington co-fathered jazz, as W.C. Handy, Sidney Bechet, Ella Fitzgerald, Fats Waller, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Delight Jones, George Benson, Wynton Marsalis, and countless other Black talents still polish this all-American art form to a blinding sheen.
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The Tuskegee Airmen bombed Adolf Hitler to bits and buried beneath smoldering rubble the notion that Blacks lacked the brains to fly.
Jackie Robinson integrated baseball. Muhammad Ali was The Greatest pugilist. Michael Jordan towered over basketball. Tiger Woods dominated golf and still competes despite severe wounds from a February 2021 car wreck.
Impresario Berry Gordy launched a whole new sound called Motown. Kenneth Chenault led American Express for 17 years. Ursula Burns was CEO of Xerox. Richard Parsons ran Citigroup and TimeWarner. E. Stanley O’Neal’s grandfather was a slave. Two generations later, O’Neal chaired Merrill Lynch.
Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice were U.S. secretaries of state. Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch were U.S. attorneys general. Kamala Harris is vice president. And Barack Obama spent eight years as president of the United States.
Former President Barack Obama looks on as President Biden speaks during an event about the Affordable Care Act, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 5, 2022.
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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If he were alive, Dr. Martin Luther King would likely argue that — while room to rise remains — his Dream has come true. Beyond these famous names, millions of Black Americans use their freedom to improve themselves, their loved ones, their communities, and this nation.
This and every Juneteenth, Americans of all hues should applaud Black success since Emancipation rather than wallow with the critical race theorists in all the wrongs before June 19, 1865.
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