Juneteenth Day (June 19th of every year) marks Major General Gordon Granger's announcement of the abolition of slavery in Galveston, Texas on June 19th, 1865. His arrival came two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, but was big news to those still enslaved in the state. However, freedom has never been a straight forward process. For many, proclamations and amendments were simply words.
Practices like sharecropping, lynching, and targeted law enforcement allowed the peculiar institution to continue on in many forms well past the ratification of the 13th Amendment. It has taken many years of social and intellectual activism by major figures like Octavius V. Catto , James W.C. Pennington (both ordained Presbyterian ministers), W.E.B. Du Bois, and so many more to further the evolution of what it means to be free in the United States. Juneteenth is a way to celebrate, not just emancipation, but the many battles that have been won while also reminding us that there are yet many to fight.
This year, celebrate Juneteenth by learning and by remembering those that have fought to further civil rights and freedom. Within the Presbyterian Church, you can support initiatives like those launched by the Presbytery of Philadelphia to fight the school to prison pipeline; attend Big Tent 2017 whose theme is "Race, Reconciliation, Reformation;" or volunteer your services for programs like Hands and Feet to show your support for communities. There is also plenty of local programming centered around Juneteenth in various areas, like the events organized by the POISE Foundation in tandem with Stop the Violence Pittsburgh (supported by the National Black Presbyterian Caucus), or the talks by Dr. Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. held at First Presbyterian Church in Galveston. A simple Juneteenth search should easily connect you with local programming in your area.
For those looking to research and share African American history during and after the Civil War, the Presbyterian Historical Society has a number of resources available including:
African American History Blogs
This Juneteenth, make learning about the history of emancipation (and the many events that followed) a core part of your celebration.
For more information on the resources held at PHS, contact [email protected].