Today is June 19th… or “Juneteenth”. I only became aware of the significance of this day a few years ago. I’m embarrassed to admit that, but it’s the truth. Since it is now a federal holiday, for those of you who aren’t very familiar with why this is an important day, I’ll fill you in.
A blend of the words June and nineteenth, it marks June 19, 1865: the day that Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and issued General Order No. 3, proclaiming that the enslaved African Americans there were free —a full two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was passed. This day has been called by other names through the years — African American Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Second Independence Day, Emancipation Day. No matter what it is called, it’s the day many consider the official end of slavery in the United States.
Digging a little deeper in my research, I found that while Juneteenth celebrates the official end of slavery, this evil practice persisted in the United States for almost a half year longer. Delaware and Kentucky only abolished slavery in December 1865, after the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment (“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction”).
It’s hard to believe that the owning of human beings was something that some people (white people) just didn’t want to see come to an end. Today, most people are appalled at human trafficking - but back then, bringing black people over in boats to be bought and owned by white people just didn’t seem wrong to them. Seems crazy, right? I mean, how could good Christians participate in this evil institution for so long… even defended it by using scripture from the Bible! It’s just another instance of humans using scripture to further their own agendas… but that’s another topic for another day.
I just mainly wanted to use my little newsletter this week to remind us all that Juneteenth isn’t just a day for Black people to celebrate. We should all celebrate this day… as a day of freedom, for both black and white people. A day of deliverance from slavery for one, and a completely different kind of deliverance for the other. White people were now freed too, whether they liked it or not, of the ability to participate in that racist evil. The chains were literally broken for us all.
We still have a long way to go for true equality and the end of racism in America. I still see it everywhere. That’s why I believe it’s so important to have friends who have different skin tones than you, or come from different cultural backgrounds. I honestly believe that when we listen to the stories of those who have different life experiences than we do, it helps us all understand each other better.
One way I honor Juneteenth is to focus on listening to and learning from black artists and their stories. This week I have been listening to the audio book of “I Take My Coffee Black” by Tyler Merritt (@thetylermerrittproject). It’s a fascinating book. I’m sure it’s great to read, but I highly recommend the audio book because Tyler’s reading of it is awesome! He paints so many vivid portraits of growing up black in America that are truly eye-opening. He’s funny, engaging, and a great story-teller. Be ready to laugh out loud and shed a tear or two. Beautiful work, Tyler. Really beautiful.
I’ll end this by saying that I have learned that the work of anti-racism is continual. And it will be as long as racism lives on… and it certainly does. If you don’t see it, then I would guess you don’t have any black friends. You may KNOW some black people, but until you truly LOVE some black people, and walk alongside them in life — well, you just won’t see it clearly. I have learned that truth in my own life. But now my eyes are opened because of the black friends in my life who love me enough to help me see, and I’m so grateful for that.
Happy Juneteenth, everyone! May we all celebrate freedom for ALL in our country, and at the same time acknowledge that we still have work to do to end the racism that is still harming our black brothers and sisters. I don’t do it perfectly, but I pledge to keep trying. Will you join me?