Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:
Valdosta Daily Times on commemorating Juneteenth:
On Jan. 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, announcing all persons held as slaves within the rebellious areas are and henceforth shall be free.
A political move by Lincoln, the proclamation did not end slavery immediately or in all states, but it served as a rallying cry for Union troops and for blacks to fight on the side of the Union to win their freedom.
The Civil War did not officially end until June 2, 1865, and word of the Emancipation Proclamation did not reach the last stronghold of slavery, in Galveston, Texas, until June 19, 1865, more than two and a half years after it was issued.
“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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”
So began General Order Number 3, as read by Major Gen. Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865.
It was on this date that Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas, with news the Civil War had ended and the enslaved were now free — again, two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which became official Jan. 1, 1863.
The annual celebration of the events of June 19, 1865, is most commonly known as Juneteenth. It’s the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.
Southside Library Boosters sponsor the 28th Annual Juneteenth Celebration with two events, Tuesday, June 16, and Friday, June 19.
On Tuesday, June 16, the theme was “Black Tuesday,” organizers said in a statement. The Southside Library Boosters committee asked the community to “wear black,” “eat black,” “buy black” by supporting black-owned restaurants and businesses.
At 7 p.m. Friday, June 19, there will be “Drive-In Movie Night” (location to be announced). The movie will be shown on a big screen, organizers said. Vendors are invited to come out and set up information booths. Families can bring chairs and blankets, and set up a picnic dinner, etc., or remain in their vehicles.
Organizers said they will strive to enforce social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Juneteenth is a day of reflection, a day of renewal, a pride-filled day,” according to www.juneteenth.com. “It is a moment in time taken to appreciate the African-American experience. It is inclusive of all races, ethnicities and nationalities — as nothing is more comforting than the hand of a friend.
“On Juneteenth, we come together, young and old, to listen, to learn and to refresh the drive to achieve. It is a day where we all take one step closer together to better utilize the energy wasted on racism. Juneteenth is a day that we pray for peace and liberty for all.”
Juneteenth has become a day of freedom — a day marking the liberation from American slavery, and now a day symbolically marking the liberation from racism and prejudice.
The Savannah Morning News on investing in education across the state of Georgia:
Thomas Jefferson allegedly observed, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”
Jefferson understood the importance of education, which is especially relevant at this critical juncture in American history. Education and public policy experts are wrestling with what our nation may look like in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of which side they fall on the political spectrum, few Americans disagree with the fact that better education leads to more informed citizens and a stronger nation.
Study after study shows that more spending on education translates into improved student outcomes with rising student achievement levels — the positive effects of which are magnified among low-income students.
Strong schools aren’t just valuable to parents and students, but to the entire community. Stronger education results in a better educated workforce, which also makes our area more attractive for future economic development.
PREPARING ALL STUDENTS
A well-funded public K-12 education system can meaningfully prepare all students, regardless of their family income level, for future leadership roles as informed citizens and leaders, according to the Center for American Progress, a public policy research and advocacy organization. The health of any local economy is also tied to strong education systems. Our nation’s gross domestic product and other key measures of economic health increase with strong educational outcomes.
Money matters when it comes to education and addressing long-standing disparities between rich and poor, majority and minority school districts. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System to face a budget shortfall of about $23 million in state funds. Gov. Brian Kemp has instructed all school districts in the state to cut by 14% from anticipated state funding, due to pandemic-related statewide budget shortfalls.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the 2020-21 fiscal year legislative session to pause, so anticipated revenues for local school districts are unknown at this time. What is known is that statewide economic activity has slowed and revenues are down. The Georgia Budget and Research Office states tax revenue will be down an estimated 11.8% to 15% for the rest of fiscal year 2020 and into fiscal year 2021 due to economic fallout from COVID-19. That roughly equals a shortfall of $3 billion to $3.8 billion. We must invest locally to make up the gap — or at least part of it.
Fortunately, Savannah-Chatham public schools are better off than other districts across the Peach State. The county tax digest has grown in value, giving the district a 5.49% increase, which translates into a projected $11 million increase to the general fund. The school district is receiving $10,929,786 from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act federal stimulus funds. However, opening schools in the fall with full virus protective measures will cost an estimated $11 million.
The complicated math between what the district gains from some pots of money and loses from others comes out to an potential shortfall of $9 million, even if $23 million in cuts are made to meet the loss of state funding.
The whole Savannah-area community will be asked to consider education-related budget cuts in the coming months. Should cuts be made in salaries, services, programs, classroom time or other areas? The school board has prepared a list of areas that might be trimmed, but no final decisions have been made. Detailed proposals will be forthcoming in future meetings. For now, the school board has voted to pass a spending resolution to enable it to operate through July 31.
For the upcoming school year, we may all be asked to dig a little deeper to fund our schools with local tax dollars. As citizens, we are all being forced to rethink what we value most and to reflect upon what will make our nation better for everyone. A strong, well-funded education system that produces informed citizens and an educated workforce must be part of that future for all.
The Daily Citizen-News on the fate of a Confederate statue in Dalton:
The Gen. Joseph E. Johnston statue has stood at the intersection of Crawford and Hamilton streets in downtown Dalton for some 39,000 days.
The days of the Civil War Confederate general there may be numbered.
Civil War statues and symbols have come under increased scrutiny nationwide in the aftermath of the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, who died in police custody on May 25 when a police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck and head for nearly nine minutes while fellow officers stood by. All four officers were arrested and face serious charges.
Floyd’s death touched off protests, marches and violent riots in Minneapolis. Those riots quickly spread throughout the country as people expressed their frustration, anger and hurt over Floyd’s death, the treatment of black Americans by law enforcement and the continued presence of racism in society.
Many are calling for drastic changes.
Change is also being called for here.
Organizers of a protest march this month demanded that the Johnston statue be removed from downtown Dalton.
They say the Johnston statue is a relic of the past, a symbol of racism and has no place upon a pedestal in the heart of downtown. Those who support keeping the statue downtown believe it’s an important link to Dalton’s past — a piece of history that should remain right where it is — and argue that we shouldn’t erase history.
On June 12, the Dalton chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), which owns the statue, sent a press release to the Daily Citizen-News stating its desire to relocate the statue -- if that’s what the Dalton City Council wants. The UDC does not have the money to pay to move the statue and has asked the city council or others to pay for relocating the statue.
The Johnston statue was dedicated at the spot it stands today on Oct. 24, 1912. Several ideas for a new home for the statue have been floated to give it historical context.
One possible spot is the Huff House on Selvidge Street, where Johnston kept his headquarters when the Army of Tennessee spent the winter of 1863-64 in Dalton. The Whitfield-Murray Historical Society owns the Huff House.
Another is Whitfield County’s Rocky Face Ridge Park, which has numerous Civil War fortifications. Grant Farm, at the foot of the ridge on Crow Valley Road, was the site of two Civil War skirmishes and was also where Confederate encampments were when the Confederate Army of Tennessee spent the winter of 1863-64 in Dalton following the Battle of Chattanooga.
Yet another location is the Confederate cemetery in Dalton’s West Hill Cemetery, which already has a statue of a Confederate soldier.
The UDC is also worried about the controversy the Johnston statue has caused, stating in a press release issued by their attorney that members are “concerned for the safety and security of all parties on each side of this discussion and conflict, and further desiring that there be no conflict among the citizens and visitors of this community, respectfully request that all parties stand down to prevent further disruption, disunity or harm.”
The group expounded: “It has been brought to their attention that further marches, demonstrations and counter-marches and counter-demonstrations are planned which may involve people and parties from each side of this matter, and we are concerned that, in light of the emotional feelings of each side and volatile state of things in our community and in our nation, that someone could get hurt. It is our prayer that all parties refrain from any further such action. It is our prayer that by allowing the legal process of the local governments and civic organizations to proceed that a good resolution for all parties can result.”
We wholeheartedly agree.
In recent weeks, Dalton has hosted two protest marches. Another to commemorate the memory of A.L. McCamy, a black man who was lynched and hanged in Dalton in 1936, was planned for June 13 at 6 p.m. in downtown. Due to cooperation among previous march organizers and local law enforcement, namely the Dalton Police Department, the protests have remained peaceful. While there has been foul language and offensive hand gestures exchanged between protesters and counter-protesters keeping watch over the statue, cooler heads have thankfully prevailed. Many of the exchanges on social media — namely on Facebook — have been less than cordial with derogatory language and demeaning posts.
We are hopeful for continued peaceful demonstrations along with reasoned and robust dialogue. We urge all sides to remain level-headed and respectful as we work towards a resolution.