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Time to rewrite the history of Juneteenth (Gerald Horne interviewed by The Defender Network)

A Juneteenth celebration in Austin, Texas, 1900

A Juneteenth celebration in Austin, Texas, 1900

DEFENDER: In a very general sense, does this 185th anniversary of Houston’s founding have any significance at all for Black people?

GERALD HORNE: Well, in so far as we recognize that Houston, and indeed Texas, were begun as slave holding enterprises. That is to say that our ancestors were exploited shamelessly in this part of North America, that our ancestors were essential to the construction of this part of North America. Therefore, this birthday reminds us of how much we’re owed. And it reminds the current descendants (of the enslaved) to keep pressing for reparations.

DEFENDER: Are there are specific, touchtone events in Houston’s history with the most significance for Houston residence? You mentioned our enslavement.

HORNE: I would say that during that period (enslavement), not only in Houston, but in Texas generally, there were numerous uprisings. Also, I think that given the fact that Galveston and Houston have been coupled, that we should also be aware of the history of Galveston as well.

I’m doing a book right now, (on) Texas…to try to rewrite the history of Juneteenth, which is associated with Galveston understandably. But it’s been sort of mangled over the years because Juneteenth was about more than just apprising the enslaved on June 19, 1865 that they were free. This was part of a larger struggle in so far as Mexico had been taken over by France. The Confederates would surrender in April 1865, many of them were headed to Mexico where they plan to continue enslavement. In fact, some made it to Mexico with some of our ancestors in tow who descendants might still be living there. And what happens is that General Granger was accompanied by thousands of African troops, Negro troops. And it was part of an effort to keep the Confederates from continuing slavery south of the border, which was the plan, and continuing to wage war against the United States from Mexico. And our ancestors who were armed helped to squash that particular plan. In fact, I’m going to argue in this book that it’s not only June 19, 1865, that we should mark, but also June 19, 1867, because that’s when the French leader Maximillian was killed, which marks the end of the attempt to continue our enslavement in Mexico. So, Houston and Texas have a very complicated history and it’s a history that I would urge others to investigate.

You can learn more about scholarship on Black Houston history, by going to The Defender Network

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