c While Very Serious talking heads attempted desperately to convince those that would listen that Juneteenth was a long celebrated American holiday, the reality is that the regional celebration was largely unknown by most of the nation prior to Congressional action. The episode is a useful illustration of how the state weaponizes secular holidays as a tool to promote a larger cultural agenda.
Prior to nationwide riots in 2020, Juneteenth Day was properly understood as a regional holiday celebrating the emancipation of Texas slaves. The day was understandably a time of celebration for freed Texas slaves and their descendants. Nationally, however, other states had their own days celebrating the end of slavery at times that correlated with their own history – such as Florida’s Emancipation Day which the state recognizes on May 20th. Jubilee Day, celebrated on January 1st, has also been a moment of celebration recognizing Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Of course, no matter the origins of Juneteenth as a particular regional celebration, its elevation to federal status has nothing to do with the history of slavery in America. There has clearly been no recent public debate over the virtues of abolition. Instead, the day’s modern political momentum was obviously the direct response to mostly peaceful protests that engulfed the nation following the death of George Floyd and other high-profile incidents of deadly force used by police during interactions with black Americans. Then-President Donald Trump has loudly taken credit for last year’s official declaration after pitching federal recognition as part of a federal response to deal with escalated racial tensions. . .
The weaponization of holiday celebrations by authorities for the purposes of social control is nothing new. Ancient Roman triumphs were grand religious and state ceremonies celebrating a grand victory by the military of Rome. In Republican Rome, only the senate could sign off on triumphs, making it a political tool of political factions aligned or opposed to the victorious Roman general. Julius Caesar, who enjoyed an unprecedented four triumphs, famously utilized the public celebration of his military conquests to build up a base of support among Roman plebs. . . .
While Andrew Breitbart famously quipped that politics is downstream from culture, political action on national holidays is a great illustration of why some scholars scoff at the notion. Juneteenth Day is an example of a fiat holiday, imposed upon the nation by an imperial city, which will be used as a tool to promote a specific cultural agenda. (Read more from “Juneteenth” HERE)
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