On this year's Juneteenth Day, all of America should have been celebrating like it was 1999. Thursday, after 144 years of emancipation commemorations by African Americans in Texas, and progressively over time, many other states, the United States Senate finally got around to--Tweet this--apologizing for slavery and racial segregation. The formal sorry say was voted on by the Senate on June 18th.
Talk about too little, too late.
The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on September 22, 1862. And although it went into effect on January 1, 1883, more than 618,000 Americans had to die in the Civil War before the slaves were freed.
Back then, good news traveled slow, so it wasn't until June 19, 1865 that word got around to the state of Texas that slavery had been abolished. And even after everyone knew that slavery was the great American evil, there were those in the South who chose not to know. Slavery By Another Name, a book published last year, revealed that the enslavement of African Americans continued in the deep South until the dawn of World War II. This nation's free black labor habit finally ended eight decades after Emancipation when President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered that it stop immediately. FDR was fearful that the Japanese propaganda machine would put the fact that neoslavery was still going on in the U.S. to great use against America's war effort.
Up until then, it was the practice below the Mason-Dixon line for sheriffs to arrest black men on trumped up charges, jail them, then sell them to plantations, mines, railroads, mills, lumber camps and factories in the deep South. In other cases, southern blacks were kidnapped by southern landowners and forced into involuntary labor. This happened to thousands of African Americans from one generation to the next to the one after that.
And I won't even mention the thousands who were murdered by lynchings.
But to quote Shakespeare, "All's well that ends well." The senate has apologized for slavery and segregation. The U.S. House is expected to follow suit. There's a black family living in White House.
African American no longer have to worry about forced labor. Unfortunately, black unemployment rates, at 11.5, are higher than those of any of group in the nation. About a third of the descendants of America's enslaved still live below the poverty line.
It doesn't matter. The Senate is sorry. I wonder if any of them are sorry that we never got our 40 acres and a mule. It's not too late to make it up. Congress could declare reparations a stimulus program and pass it just in time for next year's Juneteeth Day.
Now that would be a cause for celebration.
Cyber Columnist Monroe Anderson is an award-winning journalist who penned op-ed columns for both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times. You can read his blog at http://www.monroeanderson.typepad.com/