On June 19, 1865, 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas. With their arrival came announcement that by executive decree all enslaved back people in the state of Texas were now free.
It was another milestone in our national quest to manifest the lofty goals enshrined within the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
That “Juneteenth” in 1865 was an example of the momentous events that shape the ongoing evolution of the American experience. It was also a point of contention, just as has been most every step in our journey to become the nation envisioned by our founders.
The Delicate Balance
There is a delicate balance needed for the teaching and study of history. To learn from past mistakes, and hopefully ensure that they are not repeated, we must first develop the ability to see history through the eyes of the people of the particular era. We can not use modern eyes to fully understand the tumultuous years of our nations founding. Nor can we use modern perception to understand why people in an attempt to preserve the insution of slavery would rip the nation asunder with the creation of the Confederate States of America.
We must always look at history as it was, not as a means to justify a position today. That can be rather uncomfortable as this means that we have to walk a mile in someone elses shoes, abandon preconceived perceptions, and possibly even abandon long held viewpoints.
Consider the history of Route 66 as just one example. The immediate post war years into the mid 1950s are often heralded as the glory days of this storied highway. And yet for a large percentage of the population, the Negro Motorist Green Book was an indispensable part of the travel kit. A vintage postcard from Royce Cafe in Edmond, Oklahoma illustrates the reasons with a simple message, “Edmond – A Good Place to Live. 6,000 live citizens. No Negroes.”
Counted among the many problems with the anti “woke” movement is that it appeals to our base nature. History should be used to encourage people to rise above their base nature. Unvarnished history is how we measure progress toward the achieving the lofty goals enshrined in our founding documents.
You can not complete a jigsaw puzzle by casting aside pieces with red or blue coloring because you find them offensive. Likewise you can’t be inspired by the abolitionist movement without first knowing the role of slavery in the nations founding and its formative years.
History is a powerful tool for building, or a powerful weapon used for destruction. It all depends on how it is used, and how much knowledge people have.