Monday, June 19, 2017

Happy Juneteenth

I read the morning e-mails in bed because my stomach didn't want me to move across the room to my desk. Um-huh, it's still like that. I do have an appointment in a day or two, so I'm determined to live until then. But the e-mail I chose to read first made me feel a lot better. The subject field said, Happy Juneteenth! in all caps. The results:  Immediate happiness! I sat up straighter, I grinned. And I felt less than guilty for deciding not to write my Juneteenth post last night. I believed I'd be well today, and would do the holiday justice. Dear friend, Anna saved the day, and acknowledged my history, thus making me prouder of my ancestors who survived slavery, two years of extended enslavement, and thrived in spite of it--and happier to be me.

Houston celebrated the re-opening of Emancipation Park today. It has a facelift, and it is fabulous, dahlins'! Texas pretended not to know Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation until two years after the fact. I mean how could Texas not know? They didn't have the telegraph? There's an old insult that goes, "If you want word to spread, telegraph or tell a Negro." That was plantation talk about slave "code." They may have lost their drums but they had word of mouth. So how did it take two years for a single newspaper to make it from Washington to Texas? What? The mail didn't run that far? And if Lincoln signed the Declaration in 1863 why did it take so long . . . Never mind.

I have a copy of this photo of our youngest ex-slave ancestor, Mandy Armstrong. She was the third hardest female to trace in history. Lucy, the first hard-to-find-evidence-of, who married the first Eli, still remains in shadow because she was a slave and female, hence no sure records of her before the first census that included the family. Lucy married our Eli who was born in 1820. I believe I may have discovered records that name the ship and the captain that brought him to America. 

Our Mandy had a paper twin. I spent years collecting documents, and even a photo of the woman I believed was my great-grandfather's sister. I have data that traces her presence from Bevilport, Texas to the pages of The Slave Narratives. How could there have been two Amanda Armstrongs? How could there have been two Amanda Armstrongs who married one Josh Hadnot? Josh was a player? How could their children bear the same names? Oh, the cruelties of slavery! Oh, the cruelty of the person who touched up Mandy's photo. 

I'm saddened every time I look at the photos of our family members who were enslaved two years after they were deemed free. Surely they should have been compensated for their labor. Ships sailed into Galveston as regularly as a clock ticked. Texas knew. Texans knew . . . Ignorance of the law is not a viable excuse in today's courts. Why not then? 

"In 1623 Antonio and Isabella gave birth to William Tucker, the first African child born in America. The Tucker Family and descendants from the first African child born in America still resides in Hampton. William Tucker is buried in Hampton." 

Of all the records in my collections, one of my most favorite is the image of the 1867 Voter Registration roll that bears Ely/Eli's X. He couldn't read or write but he was accounted for. Two hundred forty-four years after the first African child was born in America, Eli and his were free on paper. And here I am.

A favorite book on the subject could be better but the photographs are moving and tell a better story of Black Americans and the End of Slavery. I find myself staring at the images, wondering but not wanting to know firsthand, the how and why of the when. Whenever I see photographs of any slaves, and read the Slave Narratives, I cannot help but wonder if the people in them might be relatives. 

Lucy and Eli came to Texas with a  thirty-four old widowed daughter, Mary, and her daughter. Surely Mary wasn't their only child. One has to wonder how many family members were left behind along the coastal route and inland routes that brought them into Texas, and one has to wonder how many were sold., once thought to be an answer to our need to know the names of ghosts left in shadow of our histories, wooed us with promises of revelation and connection . . . But that's another story about a new type of enslavement. But discovering DNA relatives along the routes Eli and Lucy traveled gave us hope. Those DNA results became a bit too much to bear, so a break from research helped save this camel's sore heart and back. For now. I still celebrate Juneteenth though. 

This is a ver special photograph of Mary McLeod Bethune and students from her school. More girls than boys, sadly enough.  

An emancipation jigsaw puzzle. It's missing a piece!

The caption, "A man whose race cannot be determined sits below a sign reading 'Auction & Negro Sales.' " Well, he has dark skin, a rifle rests next to him, my imagination created a good story to go along with. It comes from watching the movie, "Get Out." My favorite line in the movie:  "Get him, Grandpa." 

Shocking, huh? 

This photograph seems to have been used more than any other in articles about Juneteenth. I like it too. Somewhere there's a book that speaks to the celebrations in Galveston, Texas. My parents honeymooned in Galveston. Our oldest sister was born there. I lived less than an hour away on the mainland one upon a time, and Galveston was like our back yard. Galveston, gateway to news of emancipation. 

It makes this one a little less painful to bear. 

M-m-m, good. They're ghosts in old his-story, when truth is, they helped settle the west. They were the Buffalo Soldiers, the cowboys, and settlers. They were survivors. Dude sure knew how to wear those skinny jeans, too. 

Life is a celebration.

Sometimes, the more things change . . . the more they say the same.

Life Emancipation is a celebration. Happy Juneteenth!


  1. whoa that was powerful and good on you for making this post . I hope one day you will be able to find all of your ancestors names and how they connect to you . keep looking don't stop girl it is important to you and to erin . every child should know their history . Be well and stay well . Got your card and sent you two cards . :)

  2. Thanks for hearing me.

    Two cards? Oh, wow, I rate. Thank you. I owe you another letter. I'm like old Uncle Joe at Petticoat Junction: Moving kinda slow. :)

    Be well.

    1. you don't owe me anything dear I just want you to rest and get well and I hope the neighbor that aggravates your lungs will stop smoking ....

  3. Hey ma'am, (just for you), getting a letter ready, been POOPED. Who new this shoulder thing would be this draining. Something coming soon.. BTW THANKS for the link and empathy. Appreciated

    1. Aw, gee, now I'm hugging myself. Sorry you've been pooped, so sending sympathy and more empathy in loads. It takes a lot of energy for the body to heal as we age, Dodson. :) Surprise! Someone should write a book or host a site about recovering from such events. Eat lots of good protein. Drink lots of water, and obey the physical therapist, even when you want to hate them.

      You're welcome. :) We're both in it to win it. Hang in there.