Kamala Harris accused of getting slave history wrong to mark Juneteenth; not a good look

Vice President Kamala Harris made a surprise appearance Monday at the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C., to mark Juneteenth, and in keeping with her stellar record of botching easy public relations campaigns, the vice president offered a confused account of the history of slavery.

“Juneteenth” is a feel-good liberal construct loosely based on historical facts that became a federal holiday in the wake of George Floyd’s death. It commemorates the end of slavery in the United States based on Union Army general Gordon Granger announcing on June 19, 1865, the end of the Civil War, and the freedom of all enslaved people in Galveston, Texas. Of course, the Emancipation Proclamation officially freed all enslaved people in the South in 1863, but enforcement was slow to come in all areas.

Accompanied by her husband, second gentleman Doug Emhoff, who lists the museum among his favorites, Harris greeted a group of children: “Happy Juneteenth, young leaders!”

“Today is a day to celebrate the principle of freedom,” she said. “And think about it in terms of the context of history, knowing that black people in America were not free for 400 years of slavery, but then at the end of slavery — right? — when that declaration happened, when the Emancipation Proclamation happened, that America had to really think about defining freedom.”

“With the Emancipation Proclamation and Civil War, it required America to really ask itself, who is free? How do we define freedom? Freedom in terms of the autonomy one should have? Is freedom given to us or are we born with freedom? Right?” Harris said. “I would argue it is our God-given right to have freedom. It is your birthright to have freedom, and during slavery, freedom was taken. And so, we’re not going to celebrate being given back what God gave us anyway. And that’s important to remember.”

“Let this be a day that is a day to celebrate the principle of freedom, but to speak about it honestly and accurately, both in the context of history and current application,” she would add.

“Accurately.”

The problem here being the claim of 400 years of slavery. It has been 400 years since slaves were first brought to the American colonies in 1619, as noted in The 1619 Project — one of the few correct facts included therein. But slavery was officially abolished in 1865 when the 13th Amendment was ratified. That time span amounts to 246 years, not 400 years.

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Tom Tillison

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