On June 19, 1865, Union Army Major General Gordon Granger read General Orders, Number 3, to the people of Galveston, Texas. It was two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, but at last the words of freedom came to African-American slaves in Texas. This day became known as Juneteenth, and eventually became first an unofficial holiday and then a holiday recognized by some states.
General Granger wrote, in part:
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 personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
Texas officially recognized Juneteenth with legislation passed in 1979, effective 1980. Here is Governor Abbott today:
Today we celebrate freedom and honor the African-Americans who helped to grow Texas from the bounty of the land, from the sweat of their toil and from the passion of their dreams. #Juneteenth pic.twitter.com/8h5KBUxCeU
— Gov. Greg Abbott (@GovAbbott) June 19, 2019
President Trump has issued proclamations the past two years for this day. Here is the 2019 presidential message:
Presidential Message on Juneteenth, 2019
Issued on: June 19, 2019
Melania and I send our best wishes for a memorable celebration to all those commemorating Juneteenth.
On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger of the United States Army marched into Galveston, Texas, and issued General Order Number 3, declaring, “all slaves are free.” With this order, the message enshrined in President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 was brought to Texas, unshackling thousands of slaves who had remained in bondage. Six months later, the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified, abolishing slavery in the United States once and for all.
That joyous day in June 1865 became known as Juneteenth. For millions of African Americans, Juneteenth has served as an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental truth that all people are created equal and that liberty is a right endowed by our Creator.
Across our country, the contributions of African Americans continue to enrich every facet of American life. This Juneteenth, as we vow always to uphold the God-given rights of all Americans, we pay tribute to the indomitable spirit of African Americans.
Now, consider that President Trump, uniquely among Republican presidents since at least Grant, has actively sought the material well-being and the political support of African-Americans. In that context, we can think of Blexit and other individual and group moves away from the Democrats, the party of slavery and the KKK, towards President Trump’s party. No, not the institution of the Republican Party, which still can’t get out of its own way, President Trump’s party.
To the extent that Republicans stop being Republican’ts with respect to ethnic minorities, in general, and especially the African-American community, there is real hope for a real shift in electoral dynamics, making the calculus far more complex for both major parties. Consider some of the promise made in President Trump’s re-election launch rally [commentary in italics]:
Together we will keep unleashing the power of American enterprise so every American can know the dignity of work and the pride of a paycheck.
One of my parents’ neighbors is a retired Army NCO (sergeant). He runs a construction crew, staffed entirely by fellow retiree/veteran Army NCOs. They are all, also African American. The crew rolls up in their vehicles early in the morning and loads out their work trucks. Two of the cars already have Trump 2020 bumperstickers. Think about that. Really think about it.
We will elect a Republican Congress to create a safe, modern and lawful system of immigration. It will be a system that strengthens our country, upholds our values, and protects our way of life.
President Trump had already laid out how it was poor black and Hispanic communities who took the brunt of Democrats and open borders Republicans “good intentions,” losing jobs, having wages depressed, and being forced to compete for resources with non-citizens who were jumping the legal immigration line.
We will enact trade deals that ensure more products are proudly stamped with the words “Made in the USA.”
These are the non-college jobs needed for dignity and self-reliance.
We will create a great health care system based on honesty, transparency, more options and far lower costs for much better care.
African-American men have had shorter life expectancies than the general public for decades. People trying to get back into the work force do not need the healthcare system to be an obstacle.
We will give school choice to millions of underserved children who are trapped in failing schools and failing school systems. We will continue rescuing our inner cities from disastrous reign of Democrats who presided over the decimation of their education systems, the outsourcing of their jobs, and the devastation of their neighborhoods. We will expand opportunities zones so that no community is ever left behind. Thank you [Senator] Tim Scott. Great help.
This is aimed straight at the Democrats’ claims about who really cares for African-Americans.
In the face of new threats, we will defend privacy, free speech, religious liberty, and the right to keep and bear arms. We will protect our Second Amendment.
Recall that it was an African-American man, a retired engineer whose community had become gang-infested, who sued Chicago for the right to possess a handgun for self defense. Here is Chicago Magazine’s story on Otis McDonald, whose case was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in McDonald v. Chicago. Also, black Millennials are significantly more religious than other Millennials, while blacks, overall, are significantly more likely to read and believe the Bible and to even just identify as Christian.
We will push on with new medical frontiers. We will come up with a cure for many, many problems, to many, many diseases, including cancer and others. And we’re getting closer all the time. We will eradicate AIDS in America once and for all, and we’re very close.
This is especially relevant to African American men who have sex with other men, according to a 2019 CDC HIV fact sheet:
African Americans continue to experience the greatest burden of HIV compared to other races and ethnicities in the United States. In 2017, Blacks/African Americans accounted for 13% of the U.S. population but 43% (16,694) of the 38,739 new HIV diagnoses in the United States and dependent areas. Black/African American gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are more affected by HIV than any other group in the United States. That same year – 2017 – Black/African American gay and bisexual men accounted for 26% (10,070) of the 38,739 new HIV diagnoses nationwide.
We will lay the foundation for landing American astronauts on the surface of Mars.
This is about national strength and a bold leader, part of the explanation for why black men have proved more supportive of Trump than black women in polls and voting. At the same time, Hidden Figures connected the space program back with black women.
And above all, we will never stop fighting for the values that hold us together as one America:
We believe in the Constitution, and the rule of law.
We believe in the dignity of work and the sanctity of life.
We believe that faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, are the true American way.
We believe that children should be taught to love our country, honor our history, and always respect our great American flag.
Notice that all of this paints Americans as unified in a civic identity, not fragmented in oppositional identity groups.
And we will live by the words of our national motto: “In God We Trust.”
See comment about on strength of African-Americans’ religious beliefs and identity.
Powered by these values, we won a victory two and a half years ago. We won a victory for every parent worried for their children, and people worried about their children. They were concerned that their children wouldn’t have the same opportunity as they had. We are going to make that opportunity even better. We won a victory for every mom and dad who lost a job because our leaders waved the white flag of economic surrender. You’ve seen that too much. We won a victory for American self-government, self-rule, and self-determination.
We have been blessed by God with the greatest nation on the face of the earth and we are going to keep it that way. We are going to keep it that way. With your help, with your love and devotion, and with your drive, we are going to keep on working, we are going to keep on fighting, and we are going to keep winning, winning, winning.
We are one movement, one people, one family, and one glorious nation under God.
This is a clear distinction from the Democrats’ identity, fear, and hate based politics. President Trump is “raising a banner of bold colors, no pale pastels.”
We will make America wealthy again,
We will make America strong again,
We will make America safe again, and
We will make America great again.
As BET Founder Bob Johnson, the first African-American billionaire, wrote after the 2016 election:
To the Republican Party, we say to you, even though you have ignored us or often times actively conspired against our rights, “we have no permanent enemies.” To the Democratic Party, we say to you, even though you have taken our vote for granted and often patronized us, “we have no permanent friends.” What we do have are “permanent interests” and we invite both Parties to demonstrate your understanding of and willingness to respect and address our interests.
Since then, Mr. Johnson has praised the benefits for African-Americans of the Trump economy:
“You have to take encouragement from what’s happening in the labor force and the job market,” Johnson said. “When you look at African American unemployment, in over 50 years since the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been keeping the numbers, you’ve never had two things: African American unemployment this low and the spread between unemployment among whites and African Americans narrowing.
“That absolutely means the jobs market is soliciting employees who have been out of the labor force, some of it just based on discrimination, some of it based on changes in education, access and technology changes,” he continued. “And so when you look at that, you have to say something is going right.”
This administration, and this Republican president has made more effort to not only ask for votes but also to listen and to respond with policies, either with the help of the Congress or within the power of the Executive. There is a common thread in President Trump’s call for a “New Deal for Black America,” his opioid initiative, his immigration reform demands, and focus on jobs for the “forgotten Americans.” As a result, this president may be “trumping fear with hope.” This may expand the electoral map, force both parties to really compete for votes, and perhaps help shift the narrative from identity groups to geographic communities, voting districts. This may be another case of “Trump makes everything better.”