This is a day of freedom for all Americans; slavery makes slaves of us all, and one who believes that our life on earth is only a prologue to eternity may be forgiven for supposing that the slaveowner spends a longer time in more discomfort. In honor of the new federal holiday, here are some articles that have appeared in the Historical Spectator on the subject of slavery:

Slavery Is the Original Sin

The Real Motives of the American Colonization Society

Slaves of the Baker

Runaway Phil

A Frenchman Looks at American Race Relations

Now, here is an interesting exercise in historical research. How and when did the name “Juneteenth” come into use? It is quite possible that one of our readers knows, but Dr. Boli does not, and his sources of information have failed him. Wikipedia does not mention the question, let alone answer it. You can ask the Internet “Where did the name ‘Juneteenth’ come from?” and the Internet will helpfully tell you that it is a contraction of “June” and “nineteenth.” Yes, you guessed that, but where did that contraction come from? When was it first used? You will see people asking that in forums, and being told that it comes from “June” and “nineteenth.” When they politely remark that they knew that, but it wasn’t the question they were asking, they may be told the same thing in capital letters: IT COMES FROM “JUNE” AND “NINETEENTH.” There are articles with headlines that purport to explain the origin of the name, and they tell you that it comes from “June” and “nineteenth.”

But it is a distinctive contraction, isn’t it? It is not obvious that “June” and “nineteenth” should produce “Juneteenth.” We do not celebrate the Declaration of Independence on Julourth. It seems to Dr. Boli that some graduate student has a thesis topic here that would lead to some fascinating and fruitful byways of history. When was the name first used, and by whom? Dr. Boli will mention that the earliest use he could find was in 1890, but it seemed to refer to a celebration already well known by the name Juneteenth. Can anyone do better?


  1. Ye Olde Statistician says:

    As I recall from the 60s, it was the date when Texan slaves learned of the Emancipation Proclamation. In the 60s, it was a local celebration among African-Americans in Texas. The contraction seems to have been a bit of dialect, but when and where they were contracted, I don’t recall.

  2. Belfry Bat says:

    It be lazy conjecture own my par, but th’ony cents I kin make of it was how “nineteenth” starts off witha heap o ENNs which is jus how June ends isself and its such a lotto work flappin yo tongue up an down to make the sound “jewnynaynytheenth” which ain’t how nobody says it anyhow and evbody KNOWS jus what day you mean you say “Juneteenth”. Now, that “Independence Day” part o the name, that’s jes in sightin rebellion.

    As it happens, I’d never heard of “Juneteenth” before moving from Canada to teach high school Math for a year.

  3. Richard A says:

    My parents were married on June 19, 1954. Isn’t this just the whole country celebrating that noteworthy event?

  4. KevinT says:

    Juneteenth was originally a week-long celebration of all the “teens” in June, which is why there is no Julourth. At least that’s what the CIA told me through the fillings in my teeth.

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