• Jun 15, 2021 from 3:15pm to 4:00pm
  • Location: Online
  • Latest Activity: May 24, 2021
  • Juneteenth 2021, Dr. Rodney Coates will provide a lecture about this important day in American history. The lecture will be pre-recorded and released on Friday, June 18th, 2021 at 2 p.m. This lecture will be free and available to the general public. Directly following this lecture, Dr. Coates has agreed to host a Q&A session for the Miami Community from 3:15 - 4:00 p.m. (EST). Additional information will be forthcoming. Register here. 

n one day we shall celebrate yet another Juneteenth here in America.  A celebration of what many consider the final end of slavery to blacks in this country.  A celebration that marks the end of slavery, some 2 and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation as federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865.  But as with all historical events, this one is filled with ironies and paradoxes, hopes dashed and dreams unfulfilled.  This event to many represents the duplicity of power, the cruelty of complacency, and the willingness of many to forestall, deny and ignore the plight of the slave.  Consequently, as I will argue in this talk, the socalled freedom of the slave was a check that continually has come back -marked insufficient funds, they were  offered the premise of a promise yet unfulfilled.  Let me begin.


The first question that comes up is why it took a full two and a half years for the news of freedom to come to Texas.  Some argue that it was deliberately delayed in an effort to placate angry slaveholders still in denial.  Others argue that the federal troops themselves delayed the order so as to give the slave owners one last chance to get the cotton harvest in.  But then, we must also understand that the war, our bloodiest ever fought had nothing to do with slavery, and everything to do with power.  The slave was just another pawn in this political gambit as the leaders of our nation, both north and south, battled to see whose version of America would prevail.  One, controlled by Northern Industrial Elite and the other controlled by Southern Plantation Elite. There was really no concern of whether or not the slave would be free as acknowledged by Abraham Lincoln as he declared what shall we do with the slave?


My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia, -- to their own native land. But a moment's reflection would convince me, that whatever of high hope, (as I think there is) there may be in this, in the long run, its sudden execution is impossible. If they were all landed there in a day, they would all perish in the next ten days; and there are not surplus shipping and surplus money enough in the world to carry them there in many times ten days. What then? Free them all, and keep them among us as underlings? Is it quite certain that this betters their condition? I think I would not hold one in slavery, at any rate; yet the point is not clear enough for me to denounce people upon. What next? Free them, and make them politically and socially, our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this; and if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not. October 16, 1854: Speech at Peoria, Illinois


Ultimately Lincoln did what was expedient, in an effort to force the rebellious slaveholding states back into the union, he freed those slaves only in the states in rebellion.  That is, he freed those slaves he had no control over.  No slaves were freed from those states not in rebellion.  And so the Emancipation Proclamation held out the premise of the promise of freedom.  A premise that never came to pass as the “great mass of white people” refused to allow it to come into being.  The premise -that All Men (humans) are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.  The least of these rights being “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” which constituted the premise that the Emancipation Proclamation promised would go unfulfilled, a check written and returned marked insufficient funds.  And it is this check that constitutes the paradox of American justice that yet goes unfilled.  

Rodney D. Coates

Critical Race and Ethnic Studies

Global and Intercultural Studies

Sociology, Gerontology and Social Justice

Coordinator of Black World Studies




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