After Juneteenth: The Promise of Freedom in Post-Emancipation Texas

*Abridged Remarks Prepared for the Museum of the Coastal Bend’s 2015 Juneteenth Commemoration*

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” — General Orders, Number 3; Headquarters District of Texas, Galveston, June 19, 1865

150 years ago, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston and declared, on June 19th, the formal end of slavery in Texas—and the freedom of 250,000 enslaved Texans—with his “General Order Number Three.”

Juneteenth commemorates emancipation in Texas, but it has also become a national celebration, the single largest of emancipation in the United States. Nothing else compares. We don’t commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation or the end of the war or any other single event like we do Juneteenth.

So what does it mean? What do we take away from the holiday? And how does the history inform our commemoration? How was emancipation effected? What did the aftermath of Juneteenth look like?

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CC Licensing and Free Cultural Work: A Primer

Creative Commons, the non-profit whose ubiquitous licenses disseminate open material, offers a number of licenses with a range of options for sharing open projects. The most permissive, “the ones,” it says, “that can be most readily used, shared, and remixed by others, and go furthest toward creating a commons of freely reusable materials,” are labeled (borrowing standards set by Freedom Defined, a collaborative network of “free culture advocates and researchers”[1]) as “Approved for Free Cultural Work.” According to Freedom Defined’s “Definition of Free Cultural Works,” the standard adopted by the Wikimedia Foundation (Wikipedia’s parent), a free license should satisfy four criteria: 1) “The freedom to use and perform the work”; 2) “The freedom to study the work and apply the information”; 3) “The freedom to redistribute copies”; and 4) “The freedom to distribute derivative works.” The only two Creative Commons licenses capable of permitting “Free Cultural Work,” it therefore proclaims, are CC-BY (Creative Commons Attribution) and CC-BY-SA (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike).The Open Knowledge Foundation’s Open Definition likewise explains that “A piece of data or content is open if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it — subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and/or share-alike.”[2] It therefore also lists CC-BYand CC-BY-SA as the only two “open” Creative Commons licenses.[3]

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The Long Reclamation of LBJ

In light of Newsweek’s coming demise—and in defiance of its long descent into awfulness—it might be worthwhile to point out an otherwise interesting nugget from one of their many shallow sales-baiting features: in their recent “Ten Best Presidents [since 1900]” roundup, Lyndon Johnson finished third. Although he lagged behind the two Roosevelts, Johnson nevertheless trumped popular picks Wilson, Truman, Ike, and, perhaps most notably, Kennedy, the very man whose mystique Johnson so vainly sought to escape.

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First in Our Hearts, Twelfth on the Charts

*My contribution to the Rice University Music and American History Lecture Series*

Historians love to talk about “memory.” The idea goes like this: there is history as it was experienced and there is history as it is remembered, and never the twain shall meet. But that’s okay–in between the two lies a world of insights, insights not only into the past but into those doing the remembering. The following, therefore, represents an attempt to apply these ideas to contemporary understandings and appreciations of American music—particularly rock ‘n’ roll—during the 1960s. By comparing contemporary celebrations of the decade against the realities of popular musical consumption, the following explores the ways in which the creation of a musical canon shapes and distorts our understanding of cultural history, exposes artistic appreciation as a limited, subcultural phenomenon (rather than as a widely shared experience), and concludes that the celebration of a canon is as much a process of forgetting as it is of remembering.

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History Wars and Hollinger’s Postethnic America

A week ago, noted American historian Eric Rauchway drew attention for his heated response to the California Association of Scholars’ recently published attack on the UC system. In its report, “A Crisis of Competence,” the CAS blasted the California schools for perceived liberal biases, supposed pedagogical failings, and unwillingness to explore broad American themes. Rauchway’s critique, posted at The Chronicle, rightly denounced the report as a methodological mess, relying as it did on scattered anecdotes and anonymous complaints (while the academy undeniably skews to the left, the report’s version of the “professoriate’s radical leftism,” rife with self-proclaiming Marxists, seemed rather comically drawn and outdated). But Rauchway went a step further in the course of his very necessary criticisms of a flawed, partisan, and altogether harmful report. Rauchway declared his next course would be titled “US History: The Awesomeness of Awesome Americans.” The thinness of the CAS’s arguments and the nakedness of its ideological leanings demanded nothing less, but the image of the sneering academic is not often a constructive one. I wondered if, somewhere beneath the naked partisanship of the CAS report, there was in fact some avenue available to engage similar critics in a more thoughtful and reflective debate. I dusted off a copy of Berkeley historian David Hollinger’s Postethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism to find out.

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