Celebrating Juneteenth and The Heller Decision

This week on the Black Man With A Gun Show Podcast episode 574 I have an conversation with the guy in whom the Heller Decision is named, Dick Heller. He is funny. I also share some back story that it originally had a black woman and friend of mine, Shelly Parker as the plaintiff. The history of Juneteenth and the importance of it relating to gun rights.

My birthday is six months before Christmas. It is also usually when the US Supreme Court meets and hands down a decision on a landmark case. Ten years ago, the Supreme Court did just that for us in the District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), that said:

…that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home, and that Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban and requirement that lawfully-owned rifles and shotguns be kept “unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock” violated this guarantee. It also stated that the right to bear arms is not unlimited and that guns and gun ownership would continue to be regulated.

To mark that anniversary, I have a conversation with Dick Heller on this weeks podcast.

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Juneteenth

It commemorates the emancipation of African-American citizens throughout the country.

American slavery took a chunk out of us that hasn’t healed. Juneenth is a day we should be celebrating freedom.

The word is a combo of the words June and nineteenth. Juneteenth marks the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas on 19 June 1865.

During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on 22 September 1862, to be introduced at the beginning of January 1863. Americans of African ancestry celebrate Watch Night on New Years Eve because of this. It proclaimed the freedom of slaves in the ten states still in rebellion, freeing around 3 million of the 4 million slaves in captivity at the time.

Texas, even after military hostilities had ended, did not comply with the proclamation.

Major General Gordon Granger born in Joy, Wayne County, New York, in 1821 landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.

Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another, is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another, is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which, or neither of these version could be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln’s authority over the rebellious states was in question   For whatever the reasons, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.

One of General Granger’s first orders of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3 which began:

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

The reactions to this news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. Some stayed but a lot of folks went north getting off the plantations at first chance.

North was a logical destination because it represented true freedom, while the desire to reach family members in neighboring states drove the some into Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

The celebration of June 19th was coined “Juneteenth” and grew with more participation from descendants. The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas but not too many other places unfortunately.

On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator. The successful passage of this bill marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition.  Edwards has since actively sought to spread the observance of Juneteenth all across America.

Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war. – Donald Trump

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