Texas Myth #198

JUNETEENTH IS A CELEBRATION UNIQUE TO TEXAS.

It was for 115 years, becoming an official state holiday in 1980, but its popularity spread nationwide after a 1991 Smithsonian exhibit showcased the history of black Texans’ Emancipation Day. Now Alaska, Florida, and thirteen other states also officially recognize Juneteenth, which commemorates June 19, 1865, the date when a Union general stepped ashore in Galveston to inform the last slaves in the Confederacy that they were finally free.

Q: I’ve heard all my life that Texas has the right to redivide into five states. If it’s true, then how come the flag pledge says “Texas, one and indivisible”?
A: Good point: What if someday we’re singing “Texas, Our Texas Texas Texas Texas Texas”? Let’s hark back for a sec to those halcyon days of seventh-grade history. In 1845 our fair homeland became the twenty-eighth member of the United States when Congress passed a joint resolution to annex Texas. Several conditions adhered to the offer, including our right to create up to four more states. That provision was added because the Republic of Texas was unimaginably huge; it covered some 385,000 square miles—making it five and a half times as big as Missouri, previously the largest state—and spread as far north as Wyoming. Also, Northerners knew that redivision could yield two more abolitionist states.

For almost a century afterward, various politicos made at least fourteen serious attempts to partition Texas, although only one measure, in 1852, advanced far enough to be voted down. But from the beginning the topic fascinated the world. One observer was that infamous bubba Karl Marx, who predicted Texas would remain whole. The redivision movement petered out in the early thirties, which may be why our official flag pledge—“Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one and indivisible”—contains that last word; adopted in 1933, it was likely shaped by anti-divisionist forces. Suggested names for the putative new states included witty monikers such as East Texas, but some resounded mythically: Jacinto, Jefferson, Lincoln.

But we’re getting out of bounds. Final answer: Yes, Texas retains its right to redivide. The flag pledge’s “one and indivisible” is simply wrong. According to Hans Baade, a professor emeritus of civil law at the University of Texas at Austin, “The United States has a quasi-legal obligation to honor what is, after all, an international agreement that is still on the books.” Before redivision proceeded, however, legislators would have to draft a constitutional amendment and submit it to the people for approval. And that is where Texans would draw the line.

Q: A friend says that june bugs get their name from the old-fashioned term “june,” which means “buzz.” Surely not. The real answer seems obvious.
A: I can scarab an answer for you. June bugs, sometimes called “May beetles” in Yankeefied states, have long been a harbinger of summer, which is why they’re named for its first month (although they proliferate as early as April). They have a surprisingly positive reputation; in fact, Junebug has long been a common Southern nickname (it’s Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s). Fishermen favor their larvae for bait, and dogs, like fish, love to eat them; supposedly they taste like molasses. (But verify this on your own, gentle reader; my dedication to your edification has its limits.)

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