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Celebrating the End of Slavery—With One Big Asterisk


Celebrating the End of Slavery—With One Big Asterisk

Jessicah Pierre

During the week of June 19, cities around the country mark Juneteenth — the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

Dating back to 1865, two and a half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, this holiday marks the day when Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War had ended and the enslaved were now free. They were the last people freed from slavery after the war.

In much of the country, however, mass incarceration has picked up where slavery left off.


This country needs a comprehensive audit of the entire penal system. The issues that initially come to my mind are the effects of privatization, exploitation of prison labor, recidivism, impacts upon communities from which prisoners have been removed, the drug war (which warrants an audit all to itself, of course), and just for the hell of it, impact to the GDP. All components of “law” enforcement should be considered. The term police state exists for a reason, so does the term civilization.


Unfortunately we as a nation are not interested in justice, but vengeance. Long prison sentences for non-violent crimes don’t solve problems and for that matter neither do long sentences for violent crimes. Locking away young people long after the crimes have been committed completely discounts the possibility that people do change. Just because a young man or woman may have committed a crime doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll continue to commit the same crime forever. Locking away children until they’re old men and women is exactly the same as saying they’ll never be capable of learning new behaviors.
Had I been locked up for every crime I committed as a young man I’d still be locked up with absolutely no chance to prove myself a productive member of society. I’ll be 60 soon. There’s no way I would still be doing the same foolish things I did as a young man.
If given a choice between a life in prison or execution on the spot I’d choose execution every single time despite my opposition to the death penalty.


I have a BIG problem with the word POVERTY in this country.

People in poverty have been IMPOVERISHED by a predatory, extractive, manipulative system that uses the name “capitalism” but the legacy of slavery and dehumanization have corroded the dominant system beyond recognition of any integrity attributed by Adam Smith.

Generations of this say-no-more-wink-wink denial of inequity BUILT INTO THE SYSTEM has resulted in monopolization, impoverishment, gross stupidity, sociopathic “policies”.

NOTE: The ONLY times the dominant system has done enough healthy governance is when it is TIGHTLY REGULATED.

The legacy of European royalty and papal bull grants that claimed any not adhering to its brand of Christianity was not human. Sound familiar?
To many it doesn’t “sound” familiar because, because you are never taught this dimension of US history except by those who have been subjected to it. Remember “first they came for the…” ?
Welcome to the pit. Now can someone break through to Trump’s base and let them know that the destruction the abusive system they want to see is not something they will be able to handle.

The Thirteenth Amendment (Amendment XIII) to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. In Congress, it was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, and by the House on January 31, 1865. The amendment was ratified by the required number of states on December 6, 1865. On December 18, 1865, Secretary of State William H. Seward proclaimed its adoption. It was the first of the three Reconstruction Amendments adopted following the American Civil War.

Can you say private prison industry!!!


The truth neoliberals and free-market fundamentalists don’t want you to tell.


Yes, but the flagrant racism in the criminal justice syatem tops the list of what needs to be done. Why are so many commenters here in such a state of denial about racism in the USA?

Has there ever been a single commenter here on Commondreams who is black?


I don’t know, but will say that I live in a county the seriously competes for the title of lynching capital of the US. The everyday racism is palpable. The legacy of racism is all but ossified into the social structure (and societal expectations). But since the town in which I live is a college town, it is allowed to be called “progressive”. Methinks there needs to be more education here to complement all that “book learning” (training).


Libertarian solution to solve this problem: legalize drugs.

Problem solved.