By the time Union soldiers rode into Galveston, Texas, to announce the end of slavery, 2½ years had passed since the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. The message of freedom had failed to reach a quarter of a million enslaved Black people.
That is, until June 19, 1865, the date that marked the end of government-sanctioned slavery in America, and that would become known as Juneteenth.
Through the years, Juneteenth has been commemorated, primarily by Black Americans, with prayer events, families gathered around large meals and parades and festivals.
Fast forward more than 150 years.
In 2021, Juneteenth became a federal holiday in the United States, observing the date when news of emancipation was delivered in Galveston.
But in the words of Opal Lee, a Black woman from Fort Worth, Texas who is largely responsible for the national holiday becoming a reality, “None of us are free until we’re all free, and we aren’t free yet.”
The struggle for equality and justice—true freedom—continues. Inequity persists.
As United Methodists, we vow to accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice and oppression. There is still much work for us to do. As we seek to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, we do so in this context of persistent injustice and oppression.
Then and now, the life-changing spirit behind Juneteenth is needed: a commitment to ensure full freedom for all people.