While our country celebrates 1776 as its year of freedom, Black people were not declared free for another 87 years. And even still, it took an additional 2 years beyond Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation for the last slaves to be freed in Galveston, TX.
That’s what Juneteenth celebrates—the end of slavery in 1865 on June 19 when the last slaves were freed.
This year we celebrate with our fellow Americans for whom this day holds such special significance. And while Juneteenth has still not officially been declared a national holiday (although Gov. Northam announced Tuesday a proposal to make Juneteenth a paid state holiday in Virginia), we look forward to a time when our entire nation celebrates together our true and full independence.
June 19 or “Juneteenth” is not well known among the majority of white America, and this is very telling. I pray this will begin to change this year. June 19 is a day which we all need to keep in remembrance.
As a person born into “white privilege,” I invite us all to commit ourselves this Juneteenth to seeking a greater understanding for the experience of Black American citizens.
I am grateful that my friend, mentor, and fellow priest, the Reverend Willis Foster, had a Zoom conversation with me about Juneteenth and some of his experiences through the years as a Black person growing up in segregation, serving in the Marine Corps, and then as an ordained person. We’ll be posting the video from that tomorrow.
Watch this video from last year of our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry: