Subscribe to Secularism is a Womens Issue

Secularism is a Women’s Issue

Home > impact on women / resistance > USA: Black Voters Matter holds Freedom Ride across the South to promote (...)

USA: Black Voters Matter holds Freedom Ride across the South to promote voting rights

Freedom Ride: How Not to Celebrate Juneteenth

Saturday 19 June 2021, by siawi3

Source: https://www.facingsouth.org/2021/06/black-voters-matter-holds-freedom-ride-across-south-promote-voting-rights

Black Voters Matter holds Freedom Ride across the South to promote voting rights

By Benjamin BarberJ

une 17, 2021

Black Voters Matter is taking a bus tour across the South to build support for federal voting rights legislation. (Photo via Black Voters Matter.)

Sixty years ago, an interracial group of student activists from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) boarded buses to challenge segregation in public transportation. Although the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in 1960 that segregated public buses were unconstitutional, Southern states ignored the ruling — and the federal government had not enforced the court’s decision.

The original group of 13 Freedom Riders, which included seven African Americans and six white allies, left Washington, D.C., on a Greyhound bus on May 4, 1961. More than 400 people would eventually participate in the movement.

Traveling from Washington, D.C., through the Deep South to Jackson, Mississippi, the Freedom Riders were met with violent opposition along the way. White mobs repeatedly attacked them, and local police arrested them for trespassing, unlawful assembly, violating state and local Jim Crow segregation laws, and other alleged crimes.

“We knew our lives could be threatened, but we had made up our minds not to turn back,” said the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who was a part of the original group of riders.

The violence — and national media attention it drew — forced politicians to confront Jim Crow. On May 29, 1961, U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission to ban segregation. By Nov. 1 of that year, the interstate buses and terminals were forced to integrate. The Freedom Rides helped set the stage for the nonviolent student activism that would become a central part of the struggle for civil and voting rights for Black Americans.

Now, with voting rights once again under attack, organizers are borrowing a page from that storied chapter in American history to raise awareness and promote policy solutions — including a voting rights bill named for Lewis.

On June 19, the people’s holiday known as Juneteenth — as of this week also a federal holiday marking the end of American slavery — Black Voters Matter will launch its Freedom Ride for Voting Rights to protest state actions to restrict ballot access, which would have a disproportionate effect on Black voters, and to build support for federal voting rights legislation.

So far this year, state lawmakers have introduced 361 bills that would limit voting, many of them in Southern states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

“With state legislatures actively working to undermine our rights and strip us of our most basic freedoms, the parallels to Juneteenth are uncanny,” Cliff Albright and LaTosha Brown, co-founders of Black Voters Matter, said in a statement. “Every bill to suppress votes, criminalize protests, and weaken Black power is a reminder of the enduring history of slavery in this country.”

The initiative was announced last month on the 60th anniversary of the original Freedom Rides “to show voters, communities, and elected officials of how far we’ve come and remind them what Black power can do,” as Brown and Albright said. Also involving local and national partners, the bus tour seeks to raise public awareness about voter suppression and to pressure lawmakers to support the two pieces of federal legislation: the For the People Act, which has been called the “the next great civil rights bill,” and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act.

The For the People Act, which has the approval of two-thirds of voters including a majority of Republicans, has already passed the House and awaits action in the closely divided Senate, where it’s opposed by conservative Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia. The bill named for Lewis, which would restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 after its 2013 gutting by the U.S. Supreme Court, passed the House in the last Congress but went nowhere in the Senate under control of former Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. It still has not been formally reintroduced this session.

The Freedom Ride for Voting Rights will kick off with a Juneteenth celebration in Jackson, Mississippi, and make stops in Birmingham, Alabama; Nashville, Tennessee; Atlanta; Columbia, South Carolina; Raleigh, North Carolina; Charleston, West Virginia; and Richmond, Virginia. The tour concludes with a June 26 rally in Washington, D.C., to deliver its message straight to Washington.

“Our communities cannot wait for voting rights reform,” said Brown. “We need federal leadership and the immediate passage of H.R. 1 and H.R. 4 to protect voting rights now.”

Benjamin Barber is a researcher and writer with Facing South.

°°°

Source: https://www.blackagendareport.com/freedom-ride-how-not-celebrate-juneteenth

Freedom Ride: How Not to Celebrate Juneteenth

Margaret Kimberley,
BAR senior columnist

16 Jun 2021

Juneteenth has become the latest iteration of liberal capture of Black politics, opportunistic virtue signaling, and the intentional misrepresentation of America’s history.

“An opportunity to discuss resistance against oppression has been turned into a substance-free feel good day.”

Juneteenth was largely a regional holiday celebrated by Black people in Texas and other southern states. It commemorates the events of June 19, 1865, when Union troops arrived in Galveston and announced that slavery ended as per General Order Number 3. "The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” It is an important event that ought to be remembered, but its true significance has been lost. Juneteenth has become the latest iteration of liberal capture of Black politics, opportunistic virtue signaling, and the intentional misrepresentation of America’s history.

Corrupt and avaricious corporations honor Juneteenth and cynical politicians give it great attention. There are calls to make it an official federal holiday. Unfortunately, the most common narratives of the Civil War are fraught with lies meant to give dispensation to bad actors of that era and to sanitize awful truths.

Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863 and is one of the most misunderstood documents in history. Lincoln was far from the great emancipator of the American imagination. In the early days of the war he ordered that enslaved people who escaped to Union lines be returned to their slaveholders. His goal was to accommodate the southern states as much as possible and keep them, and their peculiar institution, in the Union. Only rebel intransigence and the determination of the enslaved to be free changed his plans.

“Corrupt and avaricious corporations honor Juneteenth and cynical politicians give it great attention.”

Lincoln wanted to prevent slave holding states Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri from seceding. That is why the Proclamation freed only those people located in states that had already seceded, that is to say under Confederate control, which made it practically meaningless as a tool of emancipation. The Proclamation also exempted those areas of the Confederacy which were already under Union control.

He also insisted that the little emancipation that he offered be tied to colonization , the relocation of Black people outside of the country. It is rarely mentioned that he signed such a colonization plan on December 31, 1862, the day before signing the Emancipation Proclamation. A group of 500 “contrabands” were sent to Île ŕ Vache, a small island off the coast of Haiti, in 1863. They were ravaged by hunger and disease and only 365 survived when they were rescued in 1865.

The insistence on continuing this pro-Lincoln mythology has turned the Juneteenth story into a nonsensical fairy tale. We are told that enslaved people didn’t know the war had ended and didn’t know they should have been freed until the Union army arrived in Texas.

“The Proclamation freed only those people located in states that had already seceded.”

Of course, Texans of all races knew that Robert E. Lee surrendered his armies in April 1865 and they knew that Lincoln was assassinated shortly thereafter. They had newspapers and the telegraph and letters from those who left the battlefield. Enslaved people were aware of anything that white people knew. They overheard conversations and saw white soldiers returning home. Some were on the battlefield as laborers in the Confederate army. The official announcement only confirmed what they already knew.

The explanation of the late announcement is very simple. Texas is further west and was off the beaten path of the Union army. It took them two months to establish their victory and send troops to Confederate hinterlands. It is also not surprising that the slaveholders wouldn’t free anyone until they absolutely had to. There was no one able to enforce Lincoln’s two-year old decree and they simply went about business as usual, squeezing the last ounce of forced labor out of their human chattel while they had the chance.

Juneteenth is an opportunity to tell the history of the enslaved people who freed themselves when they could and joined the army to form the United States Colored Troops (USCT). The untold importance of the Emancipation Proclamation is that it established the right of escaped people to join the army. Frederick Douglass and others pleaded with Lincoln for two years to arm the people who had the greatest stake in the outcome of the war. Juneteenth is an opportunity to debunk and demystify.

“Texans of all races knew that Robert E. Lee surrendered his armies in April 1865 and they knew that Lincoln was assassinated shortly thereafter.”

Any effort to make Juneteenth a national holiday should be viewed with caution. Such a designation would only continue the telling of false tales. It would allow the bad actors of the present day to get away with cheap theatrics while continuing the legal and economic structures which still oppress Black people. The true story of the past would be kept hidden and the story of the present would be sugar coated.

Juneteenth was a big event in the segregated south, a people’s holiday. That is how it should remain. Corporations which work against the people’s interests should not be allowed to absolve themselves by engaging in performative acts. Politicians who aid them at every turn should not be permitted to utter Juneteenth platitudes and create a new public relations farce. An opportunity to discuss resistance against oppression has been turned into a substance-free feel good day.

Black people don’t need governmental or corporate acknowledgement in order to tell their stories. In fact, learning history for our own sake is of paramount importance. Juneteenth can be the starting point for further study. Let Juneteenth remain a commemoration with significance for ourselves. Doing otherwise inevitably leads to confusion.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com . Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City