Today is Juneteenth
Today is Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Jubilee Day. It marks the day in 1865 when Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and read federal orders announcing that enslaved people were free. That announcement came two years after President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation on New Year’s Day 1863.
For 155 years, Juneteenth has been more of a footnote on the calendar than a day of jubilee for most Americans. But this year, with the growing movement toward racial justice and equality, that calendar footnote has become a cause for recognition and celebration.
Slaves in Texas waited two years to hear the truth of their freedom. In this day of social media and 24-hour news, it is unimaginable to think it took two years for those held in bondage to hear of their freedom. William R. Gladstone once famously said, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” And Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. echoed those words years later when he said, “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
An editorial in today’s Dallas Morning News, while recognizing Juneteenth’s significance, points out that “it is appropriate to reflect on the failed promise to former slaves who sought to live not as chattel, but as free citizens with rights accorded other Americans. That this yearning was violently snatched away by an emergent culture of hate that extended the oppression of slavery into the postwar period and beyond is a shameful horror that this nation must never forget.”
The editorial goes on to say, “For this reason, Juneteenth and the early promise of Reconstruction are not footnotes in history. All Americans, not just African-Americans, should find this period an instructive reminder that civil rights violations should not go unchallenged.”
Here we are, 155 years after Gen. Granger stepped ashore in Galveston and more than 50 years after Dr. King was assassinated. The killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean, and Atatiana Jefferson remind us even today, justice is still delayed and therefore, denied. This continued bigotry is foreign to the teachings of Jesus Christ and to the basic tenets of a free society founded on liberty and justice for all and the idea that all humans are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
On July 9, 1868, Congress ratified the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. The amendment sought equal justice for former slaves by ensuring citizenship “to all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” The result, according to the amendment, was that “no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”
As you think about the significance of today, I hope you will join me in hearing the words of scripture which remind us to love one another, “for love is from God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
This day is known most as Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, or Jubilee Day. But I like another name that is sometimes used to signify this day in 1865 – the Second Independence Day.
May the Lord bless you today.