With the creation this week of Juneteenth as a national holiday, I have seen several posts that, though meaning well in celebrating the day, have made mistakes about the history. Even my own college wrote that because the slaves in Texas had not heard about the Emancipation Proclamation, they were not free until federal troops arrived in Texas on June 19, 1865. Instead of my usual routine of making a historical comparison, I want to take time this week and clarify the Emancipation Proclamation and its role in Juneteenth. I also want to give a warning of a trend that I do not see as helpful in national healing.
I know this is a minor issue, but there is no connection between the Emancipation Proclamation and Juneteenth. The reason is that the Emancipation Proclamation did not free any slaves. If you are confused by this, trust me, you are not alone. It is one of the most misunderstood executive orders ever given. The same President Lincoln who had promised in his Inaugural Address that he had no plans to free any slaves and, even if he did, he did not have the power to do so, had a change of heart by the summer of 1862.
Having endured a string of military losses by that August, Lincoln knew he needed to do something to shake things up. He now realized that this would be a much longer war than he had originally anticipated. Also, by that summer, Lincoln, who hated the institution of slavery, had been receiving a great deal of pressure to do something about slavery from abolitionists in his party and he had been considering issuing an emancipation order. What made him nervous was that the order might hurt the war effort from Democrats, especially the border slave states like Missouri and Kentucky that had stayed loyal to the Union. Once Lincoln decided to issue the order, he needed to wait for a military victory, so it looked like he was making the proclamation out of strength, not desperation.
Finally, on Sept. 17, 1862, Lincoln got the victory he needed. Though it is hard to call the Battle of Antietam a victory, Robert E. Lee’s forces were turned back from Maryland. That was enough for Lincoln. Five days later he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The order stated, “All persons held as slaves within any States, or designated part of the State, the people whereof shall be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” As good as this order seems, there is a real catch. Only slaves who were in states in rebellion were set free. In other words, the order did not apply to slaves in states like Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware where Lincoln had authority. The order applied only to slaves in states where Lincoln did not.
As I stated at the beginning, the Emancipation Proclamation did not really free anyone. Slaves could now free themselves. If slaves could run away to northern lines or to the Union Army, they would be free. Prior to this, Lincoln had ordered the army to return all runaways. Even if slaves in Texas had heard about the Proclamation, it would have made no difference. They were no freer than slaves in any southern state.
So why issue the Proclamation if it did not actually free slaves? First, it was done as a military effort, which was the way Lincoln justified the legality of the order. Slaves in the fields allowed for more men to join the Confederate armies. If slaves could now be considered free and could run to Union lines, then the South would be deprived of a valuable military resource. Secondly, the order was meant to be an encouragement. Though the order was issued in September, it was not going to take effect until January 1, 1863. The idea was that if any state (Lincoln was gambling on the border states like Arkansas and Tennessee) rejoined the Union before January, then their slaves would be protected. So, the document that we associate with freeing slaves was actually a way to protect it.
When we talk about Juneteenth instead of mentioning the Emancipation Proclamation, we need to mention the 13th Amendment. The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order. As such, it could and probably would have been overturned if Lincoln had lost reelection in 1864. There was also a good chance that the courts would declare the Proclamation unconstitutional, as most executive orders should be. To guarantee freedom for slaves in all the states forever, he pushed for the 13th Amendment, which did free the slaves. The Amendment was passed in Congress on Jan. 31, 1865, when Robert E. Lee surrendered his army (only his army, not the Confederacy) on April 9. News of the surrender did not instantly reach the west. General Kirby Smith, who controlled Texas, surrendered May 26 and finally Stand Waite in Indian Territory surrendered June 23. During that time, on June 19, Texas slaves heard that the war was over and that slaves were now free. Had they known about the Emancipation Proclamation earlier, it would not have mattered. It was the end of the war and the 13th Amendment that made them free.
Finally, one quick thought. The official name of this new national holiday is Juneteenth National Independence Day. While I completely support this as a holiday, I believe the name is intentionally packed with political divisiveness. Just two weeks after Juneteenth is our nation’s actual Independence Day. Though I try to stay away from conspiracy theories in this column, it seems as if this name is an attack on our nation’s history. Many names could have been used. I would have voted for Emancipation Day, but naming it Independence Day seems as one more attempt to minimize what our Founding Fathers did in 1776. Yes, our Founders owned slaves, and yes, this nation was built upon the backs of slaves, but it is still the greatest nation on Earth. Yes, it took a hundred years for Jefferson’s words on equality to ring true – and let’s celebrate that day – but let’s not forget that first we had to create the nation and then we could try to live up its principles.
Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. He is Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog.
Response to ‘Open Letter to Warren County voters…’
The writers assert the reason for the relatively high percentage of private and home-schooled children in the community are generally failing standards in state and this county’s public school systems. This assertion ignores the impact of a half century of location of private, Catholic educational institutions into this community, prominent among those Christendom College, Chelsea Academy and Seton Home School. Those institutions, among others like Human Life International, have been followed into this community by an expanding Catholic population of a generally conservative outlook, an outlook that might blur the Constitutionally mandated separation of church and state for some.
Many families within that community have their own preference for a religiously based education for their children, regardless of the quality of the public school system here. Add the even longer-standing private school option of Air Force Junior ROTC and Methodist-sponsored Randolph-Macon Academy, now at the middle and high school levels, and you have an even greater private school alternative to public education in this community that predates current debates over educational and social policies and standards.
Whether one receives a better quality education publicly, privately, or in the home is matter of opinion and debate that will reflect the perspectives – religious, social and political – of the involved parties, as Mr. Waller’s and Lundberg’s letter illustrates. But leaving relevant facts out of the debate to promote one’s opinion as factual analysis is too often a symptom of advocacy, as opposed to objective exploration of the topic under scrutiny.
Royal Examiner Editorial Board member
Setting the Record Straight Re: School Budgets
On October 19, the Royal Examiner published an open letter from two concerned citizens regarding their opinion that the entire Warren County School Board needs to be replaced. Many things were said in that letter to which a person might choose to respond, but one thing, in particular, stood out to me: “…it costs $64 million annually to educate 4,958 students in the Warren County Public School (WCPS). That means Warren County taxpayers are paying almost $13,000 to educate one public school student a year. That seems excessive!”
Is $13,000 per student excessive? I decided to compare some numbers to find out.
Firstly, as reported by the Royal Examiner on May 6 of this year, the budget approved for 2021-22 was $63,944,829. Divided across 4,958 students, that would be $12,897 per student.
The national average for public school spending is $12,612 per student. This is a difference of $285. Put another way, Warren County spends 2.25% more per student than the national average.
Ah, but excess is not determined solely by the grand total. We could spend a fraction of this budget, and if it was allocated poorly (spent frivolously to paint fences, perhaps) then it could still be considered excessive. The website for Warren County Public Schools helpfully has a link to the full budget; on page three, we can see that 76.31% of the budget ($48.8 million) is explicitly allocated for instruction.
Is that excessive?
Also interesting to note, near the end of the Warren County Public Schools budget (on page 38), the School Board has helpfully compared Warren County’s per-student spending to the state average. Since 2017, Warren County Public Schools has consistently spent almost $2,000 less per student than Virginia’s average.
Is it excessive to have a budget in line with the national average, a budget BELOW the state average, with almost all of the budgeted funds being explicitly directed to educating our children?
I suppose we will learn what the people think on November 2.
Front Royal, Virginia
Grateful classroom grandparents endorse Melanie Salins, Stephanie Short and Al Gunn for Warren County School Board
As grandparents and residents of Warren County, we are grateful to have Melanie Salins (North River District), Stephanie Short (Happy Creek), and Al Gunn (write-in candidate Fork District) running for the Warren County School Board.
They are all parents, and teachers with varied teaching experience who genuinely care about students’ welfare, what is being taught to school age children, and all that pertains to what is in their best interest.
These individuals are strong supporters and advocates for parental involvement in their children’s education. A primary heart-felt desire of theirs is to listen to, empower, and engage parents in discussions addressing curriculum concerns.
These candidates understand that parents know their children the best, and are the first and primary educators of their children.
We strongly encourage you to cast your votes on November 2nd for Melanie Salins, Stephanie Short and Al Gunn.
Tim and Jean Hart
Warren County, Virginia
An open-letter to Warren County voters: Elect an entirely new school board as soon as possible
Dear Warren County voters:
We, the two undersigned members of Front Royal, want a clean sweep of the Warren County School Board members as soon as possible. We desperately need new ideas on the board — from individuals willing to stand up and fight against:
- “Critical race theory” is being taught in our public schools.
- Current transgendered-bathroom and locker room policies.
- Attempts to eliminate gifted programs by stressing “equity” in public education.
- Inappropriate sexual material in library books.
- An inflated school budget
- The failure to recognize parents as the “primary educators of children” — not the State Board of Education or teachers unions.
The current school board seems unable to deal effectively with these problems.
Warren County parents are shocked when they learn that it costs $64 million annually to educate 4,958 students in the Warren County Public School (WCPS). That means Warren County taxpayers are paying almost $13,000 to educate one public school student a year. That seems excessive!
Warren County parents are also shocked when they learn the high percentage of school-age children in Warren County that are attending — not public schools — but home schools, private schools, or religious schools. The figure is about 23 percent. That means that almost a quarter of the school-age children in Warren County have been pulled from public schools by their parents. Parents say the primary reasons they have taken this action are:
- Falling academic standards — especially the ability to read, write, and think logically.
- State mandates
- Classroom discipline problems.
- Failure of local schools to recognize that parents are the primary educators of children — not the State Board of Education or teachers unions.
Parents tell us they simply are not satisfied with the product local public schools are producing. Reading and math scores are simply unacceptable.
Warren County voters will go to the polls on November 2nd to elect three new school board members. To learn more about the candidates running for the three seats, we strongly recommend you watch the Royal-Examiner-filmed forum, held at St. John’s Catholic Church on October 1st, which is available online.
The candidates who attended the forum said it was a very fair, bipartisan, and well-organized event.
Two candidates — both of them endorsed by the education establishment — dropped out of the forum at the last minute after initially telling the Catholic organizers of the event they would be pleased to participate. Their empty seats were noted by many of the 250 people who attended the forum.
In summary, we strongly encourage all Warren County citizens to vote on November 2nd — but not for a candidate endorsed by the education establishment. We don’t need any more “education insiders” — like Terry McAuliffe — representing Warren County parents and taxpayers on our school board.
Remember what McAuliffe said on September 28th in a debate with his GOP opponent for governor, Glenn Youngkin: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
McAuliffe could not have been more wrong.
He obviously doesn’t realize that the state is not the primary educator of children — parents are!
Ralph Waller, local business owner
Colonel John Lundberg, U.S. Army (retired), Front Royal resident
Political ideology or educational background and common sense for North River School Board seat?
Despite other candidates, and their preferred party falsehoods and tactics being pilfered, in apparent desperate attempts for votes to their failing campaigns, I continue to be thankful for the conservative, independent, classy and coherent approach which Angela Robinson continues to apply towards her campaign for School Board for the North River District of Warren County, VA.
Angela is a true educator, with a college degree (in education at that), a mother, wife, former local public school educator, current public school administrator, all while maintaining her strong conservative fiscal, social and common sense approach to education.
Angela, truly, understands the frustrations of Richmond and Washington. She has the understanding and means (that are, actually, legal and practical) in how to address Supreme Court decisions on public education, as opposed to wasting taxpayer time and money on certain lawsuit failures, further disrupting the free and appropriate public education that all children are entitled to.
Angela trusts our teachers and administrators to do their jobs, while not shying away from asking, NOR ANSWERING, tough questions, and demanding accountability. She won’t “block” you for asking her a tough question, or for disagreeing with her. She will graciously seek to understand you, your thoughts and concerns.
Despite her conservative and Christian values, Angela understands the constitution, how it applies to education, and will maintain a common sense approach, to ensure that “all” children in Warren County (to include our most impoverished) will be treated with the same dignity and respect that she would desire for herself.
You will never hear Angela refer to children she has never met as “confused and misguided”. Angela will, actually, get to know the young people of her district, and our county, as opposed to tossing out ignorant, confused and misguided statements, just to make a political establishment and their cultist juice drinkers happy.
In the end, if being conservative matters to you, Angela Robinson is your best bet. If having someone with the proper education and credentials to insist on success, and actually possess the credentials to make it happen, Angela Robinson is your best bet. Finally, if you want someone who will truly look out for the educational, emotional and social needs of your child, as opposed to seemingly trying to gain some form of political power, only to put our county on the road to lawsuits and failure, Angela Robinson is the clear choice for the North River District of Warren County, Virginia School Board.
Brought to you by an Independent Conservative resident, who thinks for himself, applies common sense to the realities of life, and refuses to drink the juice of a local political Cult.
Michael S. Williams
North River District Resident
Lifelong Advocate for Youth
Town of Front Royal, VA
A grateful classroom parent endorses Angie Robinson’s bid for the Warren County School Board
When my daughter went into fourth grade, I was recovering from cancer. After five treasured years spent homeschooling, our family needed to change plans. I was extremely nervous about putting my sweet girl into public school with all of the social challenges and my perception of how things would look for her as a dyslexic learner – already disadvantaged in the classroom.
We are forever grateful that her 4th-grade teacher was Angie Robinson. Angie is an extremely gifted teacher. She was able to set my child at ease, understand her learning style, and most importantly, Angie was able to communicate with me, the parent, with understanding, kindness, and respect.
Educating our children right now is a big job. One that is mired in social and health issues, while the actual business of educating seems to take a back seat. As a parent I can say truthfully that I do not care about the noise — I want my children well-loved and well-educated.
Angie Robinson is the kind of educator who can restore trust between families and teachers in our public education system; the kind of communicator who can speak with knowledge about the kind of resources needed in the classroom while leaving the partisan politicking in the parking lot, and the kind of advocate who can see Warren County schools and students thrive.
Angie has the experience to know that what matters to families is that children learn to read, and aspire to great heights in their lives, wherever their educational journey takes them. As a grateful classroom parent and now as a friend, I am proud to endorse Angie Robinson’s bid for the Warren County School Board.