Saturday, June 19, 2010

On this day... June 19th

Today is kind of an important day for me, historically speaking. I mean, it's a Saturday, so no work (which is cause for celebration in itself!), it's beautiful and sunny and there are birds chirping and green everywhere and the river is about 6 blocks from me. I think I'm going to take a walk there this afternoon because it's just one of those days where you kind of want to be out and about and not cooped up in the house. So today is already a good day. But today has two important and special meanings to me as well, and that, rather than the pretty weather and my afternoon plan, is what I wanted to actually write about.

First up, is Juneteenth. I have to say that this holiday is one of my favorites, even though it's not one that is traditionally celebrated or marketed or anything. You'll usually see a 45 second story on the 6pm local news, or if you live in an area where slavery was once a staple, or in an area where a Civil War battle was held, you might get a bit more, like a feature story highlighting the history and the evolution of the day. Juneteenth is generally not remembered by people in the same way that Christmas, or Thanksgiving or Halloween are, for example. There's no Juneteenth Specials! at the local car dealership or furniture store, there isn't a lot full of Juneteenth trees, etc. But this day is one that I always remember, every year since I first learned about Juneteenth, even if it's only remembered and celebrated in my own head.

This day makes me immensely proud and happy to be an American, more than Memorial Day or Flag Day or even Independence Day, shocking as some may find that statement. I know that those other holidays are important, and I celebrate them, but Juneteenth is special to me. I'm not black, nobody in my family history was a slave, or a slave owner, to my knowledge, but I just consider a day honoring freedom for ALL, and equality and opportunity and the end of slavery as being special, and something that we should all honor and be proud of in our history and culture.

"Juneteenth" (the word) is the amalgamation of "June" and "Nineteenth", and commemorates June 19, 1865, when slaves were finally freed from Galveston, Texas. On June 18, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take possession of the state and enforce the emancipation of its slaves. On June 19, 1865, legend has it while standing on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa, Granger read the contents of “General Order No. 3”:
"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."
(Cited: Wikipedia)

To me, Juneteenth and the Civil Rights movement go hand in hand, and are both to be celebrated and honored. In my Historical Fictionistas group on Goodreads I dedicated one of the tasks in our current reading challenge to Juneteenth and the Civil Rights movement in order to honor and bring awareness to these points in history. Civil rights are of course an ongoing issue, and all the more reason to constantly keep them in the forefront of our minds.

There are many many manymanymany great books out there about slavery and Civil Rights. I personally love reading about these, because not only does it allow me to understand the way that we treat each other, and how we respond, as well as to commiserate with people who have been treated awfully, but that empathy has taught me to try to be a better person in my own life. Here is a short-list of books that I've loved that deal with slavery or the Civil Rights movement:

1) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee Brilliant book - I used to wish Atticus was my father... I loved his bravery and sense of right and wrong, and owe him my gratitude for my outlook on life. (I ♥ you, Atticus!)

2) Roots by Alex Haley I don't even have words to explain how amazing this book is. Not only is it a book about the trials of slavery and the horrible way that we are willing to delude ourselves into looking at other people as "lesser creatures" in order to exploit and abuse them, but it transcends all of that and holds its head up high with a sense of pride for the people who have gone through that and still know who they are and where they came from. I can't recommend this book enough. If you have not read this, please don't be daunted by the page count - just read it.

3) The Help by Kathryn Stockett This book is just amazing, and honest, and personal. I highly recommend the audiobook. Beautiful and brave.

4) The Color Purple by Alice Walker Another book that should not be missed. This is sad and heartbreaking and still hopeful. A definite read.

5) A Time To Kill by John Grisham This book takes place after the Civil Rights movement, but it is an amazing look at The South, and shows that no matter how far we've come toward equality and respect for each other, we still have a long way to go. This book will break your heart and make you incredibly angry, but it is a favorite of mine.

There we go. If you haven't read any of these books, please please do.

Alrighty, so on to the second reason why today is special to me... This is the 11th anniversary of the day that Stephen King was struck by a vehicle and almost killed. *shudder*

As you probably know by now, seeing as how I've mentioned it at least a dozen times, Stephen King is my favorite author. Of all time. I grew up reading his books, he shaped me into the reader I am today, and molded my love for characters over plot. This is not to say that he doesn't write an amazing plot, because that's absolutely not true, but he fills those plots with characters who are so real that they fairly step off the page -- or pull me into them.

So imagine my horror when, at the ripe age of 16 1/2, I learn that my favorite author has been in an accident and that he could die. I was heartbroken, not only for the loss that this would leave me with personally, but for the loss to the readers of the world, and to the literary world. Many people don't consider Stephen King to be anything more than a pulp fiction author, but I don't associate with them. :P He is an icon, his books are classics in the horror genre, and he practically raised me through his books. So his loss would be a tragedy to me.

I won't keep harping on... I'm sure you all get how much I adore him. :) So here's a list of the books that the world would have missed out on had he not, thankfully, recovered:
  • Blood & Smoke [1999]
  • Riding the Bullet [1999]
  • Plant: The Zenith Rising [1999]
  • Dreamcatcher [2001]
  • Black House [2001]
  • From a Buick 8 [2001]
  • Everything's Eventual [2002]
  • Wolves of the Calla (Dark Tower 5) [2002]
  • Faithful [2003]
  • Song of Susannah (Dark Tower 6) [2003]
  • The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon [2003]
  • The Dark Tower (Dark Tower 7) [2004]
  • The Colorado Kid [2005]
  • Secretary of Dreams Vol 1 [2005]
  • Cell [2006]
  • Lisey's Story [2006]
  • Blaze (As Richard Bachman) [2006]
  • Duma Key [2007]
  • Just After Sunset (collection) [2008]
  • Under the Dome [2009]
  • Blockade Billy [2009]
  • Full Dark, No Stars [2010]

This is just a list of novels and short story collections. There are tons of short stories published in anthologies, many essays, interviews, re-edits, re-releases, etc, not to mention his weekly column in Entertainment Weekly.

Yeah, it'd be a huge loss. Long live the King. ♥


  1. Wow, great post! Have your read Kindred by Octavia Butler? I highly recommend it.

    Haven't read much Stephen King, I'll have to get around to it someday.

  2. Thanks Jennifer! I haven't read any Octavia Butler, but I've been told I should... I will one day! :D

    Thanks for commenting on my blog!