"Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, 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."
It is worth mentioning that some folks are advocating for making Juneteenth a national holiday, with Congress passing a number of acts signifying the importance of the holiday.
The material, epistemological, and cultural connections between Filipino history and Black history is something that deserves more attention. So in honor of Juneteenth, I'm gonna throw around a few significant moments in Filipino/Black history, which weaves threads around emancipation and Juneteenth...
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896):
This U.S. Supreme Court ruling justified the separation of Blacks and Whites. This decision legally, morally, and culturally justified subsequent actions taken by Whites in their treatment of Blacks and other non-Whites. In short, Whites were thought to be set apart for a more glorious destiny...separate from Blacks, Mexicans, Asians, Natives, etc. (Thus anti-miscegination laws, "colored" schools, and anti-Asian immigration exclusion laws). By distinguishing the "other," subordinating of people of color would define meanings U.S. citizenship, white humanity, white labor, etc. Two years after the Plessy ruling, the U.S. would occupy the Philippines and wage war, genocide, and attempt to "domesticate" Filipinos, as they attempted with newly freed Black slaves in the U.S.
Philippine-American War (1899-1910ish...):
This began the U.S. colonial project in the Philippines. Along with Puerto Rico, Guam, Hawai'i, and Cuba, the U.S. tried to become a player in the world of imperial powers...at the expense of Brown lives. Ignore the 1902 ending date of the war as indicated in Wikipedia, cuz it lasted way longer than that (still occurring today?) The repercussions of U.S. occupation is apparent today, with many Filipino immigrants who work as nurses or navy servicemen, a diaspora phenomenon reflective of agreements between the U.S. and Philippine elite. Oh, not to mention the Visitors Forces Agreement.
Instruments of Empire. Buffalo Soldiers in the Philippines. From SFGate.
A Moment of Coalition: Black and Filipino Resistance during the Philippine-American War:
David Fagen was an African American Buffalo Soldier in the Philippines who defected from the U.S. army and fought on the side of the Filipino resistance (insurrectos) against the U.S. colonizers. A few hundred Black soldiers joined the Filipino freedom fighters, and here is a neat book describing the family of an Afro-Filipina descendent of a Buffalo Soldier.
Carter G. Woodson:
Noted as the "Father of Black History," Woodson actually served as the Supervisor of Schools in the Philippines. He describes some of his experiences in the Philippines, as similar tactics of "educating" Filipinos were used on African Americans. After his role in the Philippines, he wrote the book "The Miseducation fo the Negro" and inaugurated Black History Month (which started as Black History Week). Here is an excerpt of a bit of his biography from the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia:
"Woodson described a similar phenomenon in the Philippines where U. S. teachers trained at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Chicago, failed repeatedly in their efforts to teach Filipino children, all because they did not take into account the alienating materials of instruction...It was pointless to concentrate “On the story of how George Washington always told the truth,” he continued, for teaching Filipino children to read from books based solely on American myths and heroes would never prove successful. Woodson readily complicated these positions by suggesting that no “people should ignore the record of the progress of other races … We say, hold on to the real facts of history as they are, but complete such knowledge by studying also the history of races and nations which have been purposely ignored.”"
I know I've written about these topics before. But today seemed appropriate to return to some hidden history. Filipino history not only intersects but can be seen as flowing within the same circuit of "non-Filipino" histories. Why do people insist on keeping history so bracketed and separate? Maybe yall can enlighten me on that. I'm sure the answer(s) are complicated and contested.
Good clarity on the Juneteenth myth. I agree:
"The Truth about Juneteenth" in the Grio
"...What Granger's proclamation mainly tells us is just how provisional freedom remained after the conclusion of the war. The promises of the Emancipation Proclamation were not only delayed in the state of Texas. Indeed, freedom was not guaranteed until the 13th Amendment passed, and even then, freedom proved to be provisional."