CSotD: Happy Holiday

Clay Bennett (CTFP) is not the only observer to suggest that our newest federal holiday is a gesture without substance.

A welcome gesture, certainly, though, as noted here yesterday — and with more depth here — our wage-slave structure doesn’t observe half the holidays we’ve already got, and I would note that, if you go back 60 or 70 years, not only were holidays holidays, but most places of business were closed on Sunday, too.

People who arranged to get off work on Juneteenth to celebrate will still have to arrange to get off work on Juneteenth to celebrate.

They just won’t get any mail.

(Note: Many have suggested that Election Day also be a holiday. It’s a lovely thought, but it wouldn’t mean much if only postal workers, teachers and bank employees had the opportunity to go stand in those long, no-water lines to vote.)


No mail is hardly the worst of it. As Bennett noted on his wrapping paper, and as John Darkow spells out more directly, maybe the holiday would seem more than an empty gesture if the same people who passed the holiday all-but-unanimously could halt the gridlock on legislation to override voter suppression and election-tampering moves in the various states.


Christopher Weyant’s take is more direct, and the mother is both correct in her analysis of current events and of history, though it was a decade between the original Juneteenth and the point at which the Republican President, whose victory in the deadlocked 1876 election was suspected to be fraudulent even by opponents of Reconstruction, sealed the bargain by withdrawing US troops and allowing Jim Crow to take over.


History is a slippery critter, and David Fitzsimmons is correct in suggesting that the objection to Critical Race Theory is that it makes people who have been at the top of the pile in previous histories take an unflattering look at how things unfolded.


Mike Lester (AMS) takes a view of CRT that assumes it’s actually being proposed as a curriculum for children, which it is not. CRT is for college-level history majors.

I’d add, as someone who wrote optional curricula for schools for about 30 years, that, while the authors and publishers of the 1619 Project clearly want to get it into schools, I doubt it will progress beyond unopened bundles in a dusty corner.

Apart from its overall complexity and whatever blamecasting Lester and others have seen in its language, it’s simply too massive to fit into tight, mandated curricula.

There is no longer time for the Jamestown Project, in which all subjects are taught for a few weeks in terms of Colonial America, never mind trying something as controversial as the Blue Eye/Brown Eye Experiment.


Clay Jones is right that it’s absurd to be bullied about the history curricula by people who have allowed themselves to be snookered by the Big Lie, but it’s also right that those who object to Happy Face History should pay more attention to local school board elections and who they’re sending to the statehouse.

One place conservatives are right is that you shouldn’t expect Washington to handle everything, and one reason they’re so powerful is that they’ve done a good job of seizing control of local governments.


Matt Davies (AMS) may provoke a snicker with this cartoon, but the only excuse for leaving things up to “activist parents” is an oversupply of “passivist parents.”

Side note: School budgets are one of the few places people get to directly vote on their taxes. It’s not surprising that people who hate paying taxes tend to turn out, and, if they can seize the schoolboard, that’s the cherry on top.


So, Andy Marlette (Creators) notes, we’ve got our celebration, to the dismay of Lost Cause partisans.

But if the elevation of Juneteenth is to have any impact on young people, I’d suggest, first of all, that we stop defining Juneteenth and MLK as “black holidays.” That’s a separate-but-equal viewpoint that goes against the spirit of those days.

And then — CRT aside — can’t we stop teaching fantasies and folk tales as if they were history?

We all seem to know that having kids make construction paper feathers and pretend to be woo-woo Hollywood Injuns on Thanksgiving is uncool, but let’s look at some related things.

For instance, not every understairs closet was really a hiding place on the Underground Railroad, and this website helps demythologize many elements of that historic legend.

As Henry Louis Gates, Jr., writes

Often well-meaning white people crafted “romantic adventure stories … that placed white “conductors” in heroic and romantic roles in the struggle for black freedom, stealing agency from supposedly helpless and nameless African Americans (who braved the real dangers), a counterpart to popular images of a saintly, erect Abraham Lincoln bequeathing freedom to passive, kneeling slaves. With the collapse of Reconstruction in 1876 — often blamed on supposedly ignorant or corrupt black people — the winning of freedom became a tale of noble, selfless white efforts on behalf of a downtrodden, faceless, nameless, “inferior” race.

Not to downplay the importance of Harriet Tubman, certainly, but, Gates notes, most of those who escaped slavery were young men who traveled alone until they reached the North, where they were assisted by a mostly African-American network. (An example of which we discussed here.)

And they were not guided by quilts, either, delightful as that myth may be.

That’s not history. That’s folklore, like the little closet under the stairs.

And this heartbreaker: “Follow the Drinking Gourd” is in the same category of pleasant mythology, and here’s a multipage website dedicated to analyzing that example of musical folklore.

It’s time to raise the bar. We don’t have to teach college-level CRT in order to stop teaching folklore as history. There is plenty of genuine heroism and heartbreak in the things that did happen that you needn’t sweeten the lessons with things that didn’t.

Besides, it’s not history yet.

Twenty-some years ago, I played for a Juneteenth gathering, and on that June 19, I offered a song about a man who had died on a June 12. The inspiration behind the song is that someone said, “Another martyr,” to which someone else replied, “Lord, we have too many martyrs.”


9 thoughts on “CSotD: Happy Holiday

  1. My very first “real” research paper (with footnotes and everything) had to be about a “current events” issue and I did mine about the dangers of Satanism. This being the early 90’s, there was no shortage of source material from the copies of Good Housekeeping in the school library and such. I think I even got an A for it.

    Then, as an adult I read about the West Memphis Three, and found out about how all of the “satanic panic” business was all bunk. It was never that easy to go from painting your nails black and listening to Ozzy to building an altar to Beelzebub in your closet and performing human sacrifices—and the belief that it *was* that easy had led to innocent people being harmed in very real ways. And, more than anything else, that realization pissed me off. I felt like I had been duped—I may as well have written an A+ report on the existence of Sasquatch and no one had bothered to clue me in that it was bunk.

    Do others have the same feeling when they get sucked in by a moral panic, I wonder?

  2. One of the only stories I ever had spiked was about a Satanic Panic charlatan who came to town to pass around buckets and collect money from people who believed his nonsense.

    Never got a good explanation of why the story never saw print, but I suspect it’s because there wasn’t one.

  3. I am glad that as a nation we are taking baby steps toward recognizing the evil of damage still felt by slavery and I am happy that Juneteenth has received Federal recognition. Still. I shake my head at those who say Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in America.

    Chattel slavery in America was legal in the border states after the Civil War and was not eliminated until the passage of the 13th Amendment in December 1865. Juneteenth is an important date and most slaves were freed by that date, but if we bemoan the fables and myths that Americans believe about our past, let’s at least teach the proper facts and context.

  4. I’ll defend that usage: I had only two stories spiked. This was one of them.

  5. If you’d had three hundred and fifty stories spiked, any specific one of them would still have been “one of the only” ones, just as any given grain of sand on the beach is one of the only grains of sand on that beach. To me, “one of the only” says only that something is a member of a set that contains it, and says nothing about how large that set may be (unlike “one of the few” or “almost the only”).

  6. If I’d had 350 stories spiked, I wouldn’t have even said “One of the few.”

    That aside, this is one of the perils of expecting a mongrel language to have actual, set rules. Specifically, by definition, only means one. But by usage, as the Cambridge dictionary says,

    “We use only as an adjective to mean that there is just one or very few of something, or that there are no others:

    He was the only person in the room.

    Being healthy is the only thing that is important to me.”

    Obviously in that second example, being healthy can’t possibly mean nothing else is important to him. He simply means it’s at (or near) the top of the list.

    Put it this way: If an editor had changed it, I wouldn’t object. But it’s not wrong.

  7. If you want to get all pedantic about things, peonage (you might have heard of the less onerous-sounding “sharecropping”) survived the 13th Amendment well into the 20th Century.

  8. Dragging people (guess which people?) into jail on bogus charges and sending them out on chain gangs was also a popular workaround.

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