Monday Ministerial Musings
By Rev. Mark William Ennis
Blog Number 25
June 22, 2020
Juneteenth; Not Just For Black People Only
Last Friday much of the nation celebrated Juneteenth while much of the nation did not. Many of those who did not this holiday had never even heard of it. It really has only come to be known in the north about a decade ago. Prior to that it was a holiday most known among blacks in the Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma areas.
This past week in South Jersey I was at a bank where I was greeted with “Happy Juneteenth by one woman.” Another woman asked, “what is that and why are we wishing that to people?” The first replied, “Because corporate said to.”
I asked the second woman if she wanted me to explain the origins of the holiday but she declined telling me that it was a “black holiday.” I had a similar experience at a Wawa a little while later. It seems that for many whites, Juneteenth is a black holiday. I hope that we can change that perception and all Americans can begin to celebrate this day together.
Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. We all heard of the Emancipation Proclamation. This freed slaves in territories held by the rebellious states. Unfortunately, the government had no way of enforcing it in territories out of federal control. Slaves received the news of their freedom only when areas were occupied by northern armies.
Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Grant on April 9, 1865. This, for most people is seen as the end of the Civil War. Fighting, however, continued after this date. There were other confederate units outside of Virginia. The war had not yet ended. Skirmishes continued in the west and southwest. It was finally on June 19, 1865 that Union Major General Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston, Texas. The remaining slaves heard that they were freed and had a beach party to celebrate their freedom. In my mind, this really is when the Civil War ended.
Throughout the generations that followed, black families gathered to hear the stories from the former slaves so that family history would not be lost. Young people, who were born after slavery ended, would know what there forebearers had endured. I think it is good to hear the strength of people who overcame such harsh living conditions.
Why do I want us all to celebrate this day? Because the Civil War ended and with it, slavery. They are both things that deserve celebrating. No, my ancestors were not slaves, but at least one of my ancestors fought in the Union Army to end it. I think that the 19th of June is something for us all to celebrate.
Juneteenth; it’s not just for Black people only.
To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book:
The Circle of Seven