Juneteenth: Our Other Independence Day
Independence Day. Most Americans associate Independence Day with July 4, 1776, the date the Declaration of Independence was signed by the Continental Congress, forging the birth of the United States of America. Since that date, the birth of our nation has been celebrated by parties ranging from backyard barbecues to grandiose events, great orations, and spectacular parades stretching for miles, all across the USA. But not for everyone.
In 1852, Frederick Douglass was invited to address President Millard Fillmore and many distinguished guests during one such celebration held in Rochester, New York. Douglass’ address, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro,” still stands today as one of his most stirring speeches. Douglass’ address underscored the hypocrisy of a country celebrating its freedom while continuing the barbaric policy of subjugation and bondage of enslaved people:
. . . Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?
. . . But, such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. — The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. . . “
While Frederick Douglass addressed the country as a free man, his formerly enslaved heart was delivering an impassioned plea for his brethren still kept in bondage throughout the US.
President Lincoln signed an executive order, the Emancipation Proclamation
It would be nearly eleven years later on January 1, 1863, during the Civil War, that President Lincoln signed an executive order, the Emancipation Proclamation, theoretically freeing enslaved people beyond the bounds of Union control. Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not free many enslaved people at the time, its symbolic stature would eventually pave the way for enacting the 13th amendment in December 1865, which would outlaw chattel slavery and involuntary servitude. But, before the 13th Amendment could be ratified, Union troops advanced throughout Southern states, overtaking Confederate strongholds and informing enslaved people that they were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation.
On June 19, 1865, two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued by President Lincoln, Major General Gordon Grainger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and issued General Orders, Number 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.”
With the final announcement of General Orders, Number 3, enslaved people were set free in Texas. This marked the not-so-humble beginnings of the very first Jubilee Day (Juneteenth). The first official Jubilee Day in Texas took place the following year on June 19, 1866.
It would take one hundred and fifty-six years before Juneteenth rose to federal significance. The first strides toward Juneteenth becoming a federally observed holiday began in 1979 with Texas becoming the first state to make Juneteenth an official state holiday. Eventually, forty-three states and the District of Columbia would join Texas in adopting Juneteenth as an official holiday.
In 2016, Civil Rights Leader Opal Lee, nicknamed the Grandmother of Juneteenth, made it her mission to trek from Texas to Washington, DC in an effort to ask President Obama to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. She made national headlines as she traveled across the country, garnering nationwide support and gathering 1.6 million signatures for her noble cause. At ninety-four, Opal Lee was finally able to realize her dream as she stood beside President Biden on June 17, 2021, as he signed legislation commemorating Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
In the beginning, the black churches, essential fixtures, and roots of the black community, played a central part in the Juneteenth celebrations. They featured parties filled with food and music, baseball games, horse races, foot races, special Jubilee Day church services, and marches commemorating the special occasion. In many Texas cities, sizable land purchases were made to hold these special emancipation celebrations. Many of these parks from the early days of Juneteenth have survived and are still being used in modern-day Juneteenth celebrations.
These same traditions have survived into the modern-day Juneteenth celebrations.
Honoring Juneteenth While Staying Low-Carb
With the second Juneteenth federal holiday fast approaching, here are some traditional ways to honor Juneteenth while staying firmly planted in Low-Carb Land:
- Barbecue – Nothing is more traditional than barbecued meat for Juneteenth. A variety of smoked chicken, ribs, pork, brisket, hot links, sausages, and large turkey legs cooked over an open flame is centered in traditional Juneteenth celebrations. Avoid sugary rubs and barbecue sauces. For a less meaty approach, try grilling portabella mushrooms basted in butter.
- Collard Greens – Collard greens cooked with smoked meat are traditionally believed to bring prosperity, and certainly bring delicious taste to the celebration. Skip adding sweeteners to the greens and add a little pepper sauce instead.
- Red Drinks – Red symbolizes the sacrifices of our ancestors. Hibiscus teas, strawberry drinks, sugar-free red sodas like Big Red, or red sugar-free Kool-Aid would be fitting for the occasion.
- Cornbread – Choose your favorite low-carb faux cornbread recipe and sub away! Or try Good Dee’s Corn Bread Grain-Free Low-Carb Sugar-Free Gluten-Free Baking Mix.
You can also make many nontraditional food choices while still remaining true to the spirit of Juneteenth. Many traditional soul foods are incorporated into the Juneteenth celebrations as well. Often those foods can be adjusted to make them more fitting for a low-carb meal plan:
- Seafood – While not traditional Juneteenth fare, seafood is part of many Juneteenth celebrations. Steamed or broiled seafood is naturally low in carbs. Crab boils, commonly eaten among coastal communities, are a great low-carb choice. Serve with a selection of lower-carb veggies instead of potatoes and corn.
Fried catfish is a particularly soulful choice for Juneteenth. Coat with crushed pork skins mixed with almond meal, and a touch of a low-carb flour substitute like whey protein isolate. I like to also add hot sauce to the egg wash. This coating burns easily, so it is best to cook until it is properly browned then finish in the oven. It just depends on how big and how thick the fish pieces are.
- Batter-fried foods – Organ meats (such as chicken livers and gizzards), chicken, and yellow squash are all traditional soul foods. Low carb flour blends can be used to coat the meats and vegetables after they are first dipped in an egg wash. Add your choice of seasoning after the egg wash dip to keep the seasonings on the food, then you may “flour” your pieces. Frying in peanut oil adds extra flavor.
- Low carb flour and flour substitutes such as almond flour and coconut flour have a tendency to brown before the larger pieces of meat, especially bone-in chicken, have completed cooking. To avoid over-browning larger pieces of meat, fry until nicely browned, then pop larger meat pieces into a preheated 350-degree oven to finish cooking.
- Traditional BBQ sides – Sugar-free coleslaw and sugar-free fauxtato salad, while not traditional Juneteenth fare, are traditional soul food selections and make delightful accompaniments to fish, chicken, and barbecue choices. Caulirice with low-carb gravy would also make a great addition to the side dishes. (Editor’s note: I have made over a dozen different potato salad recipes using cauliflower instead of spuds, and all have come out well.)
- Baked Macaroni and Cheese – No soulful gathering would be complete without the richly divine macaroni and cheese. This is easily made into low-carb “mockaroni and cheese” by substituting cauliflower for the macaroni in your favorite macaroni and cheese recipe. All of the flavor with a much lower carb profile!
You can also choose to forego the coating and the extra work by “naked frying” your foods without coating, then lightly dusting them with seasonings afterward – I use a little onion powder and seasoned salt.
Even though the delicious dishes, rich cultural traditions, and joyful festivities are important to any Juneteenth celebration, always remember what is truly important: the sharing of our heritage, the celebration of our rich history, and the honoring of the sacrifices which paved our way to freedom. From the shores of Galveston, Texas to the District of Columbia, Juneteenth has come so far to be celebrated across the land as our federal holiday of freedom.
More Low Carb Articles by April Bradford Walker.
It may be a federal holiday but why are we forgetting that it is Father’s day as well and should be recognized.
Great point! And we will have more father-related content on the site soon!