June 19, 2018
Juneteenth, a blend of the words June and nineteenth, is an American holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
Despite the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Sept. 22, 1862, freedom did not come to those still held in bondage in the resistant state of Texas until Union Major General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston on June 19, 1865, with 2,000 federal troops. From the balcony of the Ashton Villa, the first mansion built on the island, Gordon announced, “The people are informed that in accordance with a proclamation from the executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” With the announcement, the newly freed people flooded the streets in jubilant celebration. Juneteenth, known also as Freedom Day, was launched the following year.
Juneteenth embodies for many African-Americans what the July 4 holiday does for all Americans — liberation. It serves as a chronological turning point in the American drama about the triumph of the human spirit over the cruelty of slavery. Juneteenth is a time to pause and remember those African-Americans descendants who suffered and died, and to honor those who survived as living witnesses to the inhumane institution of slavery. It is a time to venerate the shining legacy of resistance and resilience of an abjectly oppressed people.
Juneteenth is annually celebrated in more than 200 cities in the United States. Although the observance typically takes place on June 19, in some cases the commemoration extends throughout the week or month. Texas made it an official state holiday in 1979. Last year, First Presbyterian Church of Galveston hosted a lecture series featuring Dr. Eddie S. Glaude Jr., chair of the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University. This year the Houston Juneteenth Emancipation Celebration will feature a concert in Emancipation Park. Performers will showcase a variety of genres from the African diaspora, including jazz, blues, rhythm and blues, and funk.
In 2003 the state of New York declared June 19Juneteenth Freedom Day. In response, the White Plains Juneteenth Heritage Committee was formed. The annual citywide celebration includes a festive parade. This year’s theme is “Standing on the Shoulders of Our Ancestors and Continuing the Legacy.” White Plains Presbyterian Church will participate in the procession, with the Rev. Jeff Geary carrying a Pentecost flag designed by the Rev. Lynn Dunn.
Sterling Morse, Coordinator for African American Intercultural Ministries, Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: Juneteenth
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Thank you, O God, for your grace and redeeming love. Today we commemorate, with joy and thanksgiving, the shouts of the slaves in Texas who at last heard a declaration of freedom, and we ask you to hear our cries for a swift end to slavery wherever it exists. Give us the strength to follow your creative will, to land on that peaceful shore where the gifts of mutuality, reciprocity and justice are equally shared. Amen.