Juneteenth Celebrates Freedom

Juneteenth Celebrates Freedom

6/17/2021

Juneteenth (celebrated on June 19) commemorates the day enslaved African-Americans in west Texas learned of their freedom as granted by the Emancipation Proclamation two and a half years earlier. This group of people in west Texas was the last to find out about the proclamation declaring "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."

On June 19, 1865, Union Army General Gordon Granger read General Order Number 3in Galveston, Texas declaring, “the people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free” and “the connection between former master and slave becomes that between employer and hired labor.” Celebrations of Juneteenth—also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day—began a year later in Texas and quickly spread to surrounding states.

Although many celebrations will be virtual this year, the numbers are increasing in 2020 and often include calls and actions to end racism. Just this week, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act moved through both chambers quickly, with the House passing it just one day after the Senate

The New York Annual Conference added Juneteenth to its list of paid holidays in 2020. And the General Board of Church and Society announced on June 18, 2021 that it would make Juneteenth a paid holiday for all employees.

Churches have long been in the forefront of celebrating Juneteenth for a day, a week or the entire month. On Juneteenth all United Methodists are called to become part of an initiative for “Dismantling Racism: Pressing on to Freedom.”

Other observances this year include a “Day of Remembrance” service at Clark Memorial United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, a “Rally of Remembrance” in which Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon, Virginia will participate and “a celebration of the commitment to make (emancipation) real” at The Place CLT, a United Methodist congregation in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Baltimore-Washington Conference is hosting the Juneteenth Freedom and Justice March and Action in Washington, D.C. 

Discipleship Ministries says, “A word of explanation and celebration of Juneteenth would be an appropriate part of any worship service around June 19” and provides these worship resources

Appropriate songs include: 

  • "Freedom Is Coming" (The Faith We Sing, 2192)
  •  "O, Freedom" (The Faith We Sing, 2194)
  •  "Siyahamba" (The Faith We Sing, 2235)
  • "Goodness Is Stronger than Evil" (The Faith We Sing, 2219; Upper Room Worshipbook, 436)
  • "Lift Every Voice and Sing" (The United Methodist Hymnal, 519)
  •  "We Shall Overcome" (The United Methodist Hymnal, 533) 

To learn more: