Dad was a Juneteenth baby, born 1925. While home the summer after he died and mother had gone into assisted living, it fell to me and Sis to clean out the house. It was, as things like that often are, bittersweet. You learn things you might not have known, revisit memories that have been cherished, and, at least Sis and I did, laugh a lot. Sometimes we would run across an item she knew about and would share its history with me. Sometimes, I was the one who knew the story behind the photo or souvenir. Our paternal grandmother had a penchant for taking family portraits and cutting a silhouette head and then arranging them in the same frame. I ran across the silhouette of Dad in a box one night and propped on the mantle. On his birthday, I clipped a clothes pin to it so we could do a “selfie.” R asked “Are we playing with photoshop?” I said no, we were going lo-tech; like I have photoshop or Internet here in rural northwest Texas?
One of the items I had previously found was his baby book, written in my grandmother’s block-like penmanship.
…born in the City of Proffitt, State of Texas at 2:30 P. M. on Friday June 19 1925 and weighed 9 lbs. Doctor J. B. Mars
Grandma had another penchant of “embroidering” family history and Mother questioned some of what was recorded in the book as true–not details easily verified, but the “stories.” Another item I found odd was among his “First Toys” she listed “Negro doll.” I always found that curious, but there was no one to ask about it. This morning when I awoke, it was a bolt of lightening: because he was born Juneteenth. Growing up in Texas, we all knew the story of how Emancipation Day was celebrated June 19th because that is how long it took for word to reach Texas, and thus, June 19th was the day Texas received the news that Texas enslaved were free.
As a child and young woman, I was fascinated with Dad’s Army Air Force pictures, both the formal ones and the snapshots. He had a photo album and would tell us about the pictures of his time in China and India. One of my colleagues is from China, and he shared with me some of the things he learned in school about the US soldiers in China, and I have learned about the many casualties the Chinese people suffered while helping the the soldiers build runways and roads and dams–the work that my father did as a heavy equipment operator.
My hope for coming Juneteenths is true emancipation and equity and inclusion and social and economic justice become reality as those who share that vision and those beliefs and goals continue to do our best to honor them and bring them about.