One of the most interesting coincidences that strikes me is the co-location in time of Father’s Day each year with Juneteenth. We take the time to pay tribute to our male progenitors, our Fathers, ensuring that we commemorate their sacrifice and faithfulness to our families. We thank them for supporting us and enabling us to reach our potential. We know it is important to express to this person, who has been so instrumental in our life development, how much we value their impact in our lives.
In contrast, our acknowledgement of Juneteenth is only a recent phenomenon. For more than 400 years, the contributions of African Americans have had little recognition or appreciation in our country. At this moment in the United States, discussion of African American History has become a political hot potato. It is appropriate to take this day to recognize the sacrifices and faithfulness of so many who built the wealth of this country during centuries of slavery; supported this country through severe discrimination and inequality; and continue to strive to reach that place of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We are thankful to our daughter, Jessica Lynn Henderson, who edited the following:
As a native Texan, it is not lost on me that Texas was the LAST state (ahem…republic) to recognize the emancipation of American slaves. I encourage you and your family to get familiar with some of my favorite resources on Juneteenth below.
Why does it matter?
“The fear of the Black imagination was strong all throughout slavery. That was one of the reasons free African Americans posed such a problem and was one of the reasons the Texas Constitution prevented the immigration of free Black people into the republic. Seeing that Black people could exist outside of legal slavery put the lie to the idea that Blacks were born to be slaves. Making life as hard as possible for free African Americans, impairing their movement and economic prospects—even if that meant the state would forgo the economic benefits of talented people who wanted to work— was designed to prove that Blacks could not operate outside of slavery.” ― Professor Annette Gordon-Reed, On Juneteenth
In a nutshell: What is Juneteenth?
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation of the Executive of the United States, all slaves are FREE. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” ― General Order Number Three, June 19, 1865.
Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order that declared that all slaves held in states that were in rebellion against the Union were free in January of 1863. As a result of his executive action, more than 200,000 black men enlisted in the Union Army, and they helped to spread the news of emancipation as they traveled through the south. The delivery of the news sparked celebrations amongst the new emancipated, who lauded the coming of the “day of jubilee”: a reference to the Hebrew tradition of the manumission of slaves that took place every seven years and referenced in the Christian Bible.
It would take some time for this message of freedom to reach Texas; in fact, the news didn’t reach Galveston, Texas until June 19th, 1865. Union troops, under the command of General Gordon Granger, went through the city of Galveston reading the contents of General Order Number Three which proclaimed among other things, that all slaves were free. The truth of the matter is a bit more complicated as the last persons enslaved in the continental United States wouldn’t be freed until 1866.
Nevertheless, General Granger’s order serves as the basis for Juneteenth, the recently created federal holiday that has traditionally been celebrated by African American communities throughout the south. It is recognition of the moment when the United States took its first halting steps towards the promise of “building a more perfect union.” Juneteenth isn’t just a recognition of the symbolic end of slavery, it’s a reminder of how far we’ve come and how much further we must go in perfecting our democracy.
Literature for Adults
On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed (2021). Available in print.
Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the end of Slavery by Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer (2013). Available in print.
Juneteenth: A Novel by Ralph Ellison (1999). Available in print.
Juneteenth: the story behind the Celebration by Edward T. Cotham (2021). Available in print. Juneteenth and Women's History by New York Historical Society (June 2020).Read now online. Laws of Slavery in Texas historical documents and essays by multiple authors (2010). Available as an eBook.
All different now : Juneteenth, the first day of freedom by Angela Johnson and Earl B. Lewis (2014). Children’s book available in print.
Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper (2015)
Available in print.
Documentary – Free on YouTube
Juneteenth: Faith & Freedom - A Documentary by Our Daily Bread:
Listening Library: Glory (John Legend)
One day when the glory comes It will be ours, it will be ours Oh one day when the war is won We will be sure, we will be sure Oh glory (glory, glory) Oh (glory, glory) Hands to the Heavens, no man, no weapon Formed against, yes glory is destined Every day women and men become legends Sins that go against our skin become blessings The movement is a rhythm to us Freedom is like religion to us Justice is juxtaposition in' us Justice for all just ain't specific enough One son died, his spirit is revisitin' us Truant livin' livin' in us, resistance is us That's why Rosa sat on the bus That's why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up When it go down we woman and man up They say, "Stay down", and we stand up Shots, we on the ground, the camera panned up King pointed to the mountain top and we ran up One day when the glory comes It will be ours, it will be ours Oh one day when the war is won We will be sure, we will be sure Oh glory (glory, glory) Oh (glory, glory) Now the war is not over, victory isn't won And we'll fight on to the finish, then when it's all done We'll cry glory, oh glory (glory, glory) Oh (glory, glory) We'll cry glory, oh glory (glory, glory) Oh (glory, glory) Selma's now for every man, woman and child Even Jesus got his crown in front of a crowd They marched with the torch, we gon' run with it now Never look back, we done gone hundreds of miles From dark roads he rose, to become a hero Facin' the league of justice, his power was the people Enemy is lethal, a king became regal Saw the face of Jim Crow under a bald eagle The biggest weapon is to stay peaceful We sing, our music is the cuts that we bleed through Somewhere in the dream we had an epiphany Now we right the wrongs in history No one can win the war individually It takes the wisdom of the elders and young people's energy Welcome to the story we call victory The comin' of the Lord, my eyes have seen the glory One day when the glory comes It will be ours, it will be ours Oh one day when the war is won We will be sure, we will be sure Oh glory (glory, glory) Oh (glory, glory) Oh glory (Glory, glory) Hey (glory, glory) When the war is won, when it's all said and done We'll cry glory (glory, glory) Oh (glory, glory)
Glory Lyrics as written by John Stephens Che Smith
Lyrics © BMG Rights Management, Songtrust Ave, Warner Chappell Music, Inc.