Known as Juneteenth, Emancipation Day, or Freedom Day, commemorates June 19, 1865, the day that Major General Gordon Granger delivered the message of emancipation from slavery to the town of Galveston, Texas. This took place over two years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and months after the end of the Civil War. Though we observe Juneteenth on June 19, it's important to remember that it would be even longer until the news reached all enslaved people.
In the years following emancipation, some formerly enslaved people and their descendants would make yearly trips to Galveston in honor of Juneteenth. The tradition of commemorating the day spread across the nation, and soon Black communities across the country began celebrating the holiday, even in the face of barriers such as being banned by White people from celebrating in public spaces. Some early Juneteenth celebrations even included helping newly freed Black people learn about their voting rights.
Today, Black families, churches, and communities celebrate with cookouts, parades, church services, concerts, and other public events. After many years of hard work by activists and community leaders, Juneteenth was recognized as a federal holiday in 2021.
It can be difficult for White or non-Black people of color to know how to engage with Juneteenth. As Christians, Juneteenth is an opportunity to learn, lament, and be a part of God's work in our world. For all of us, Juneteenth is a time to expand our knowledge and take practical, meaningful steps toward being part of the continuing story of liberation and reconciliation right where we are.
Take time as an individual, family, or church to learn—not only about Juneteenth itself but also about Black history more widely, as well as the systemic barriers that Black communities face today. Though it can seem daunting, there are so many informative, eye-opening resources for learners of any age or at any stage in the journey. In fact, Juneteenth can be an opportunity to unlearn harmful narratives that we've picked up from our culture. Prioritize learning directly from Black folks and seek out perspectives that may differ from yours, even ones that may make you feel uncomfortable.
Not sure where to start? These books on racial justice by IVP's Black authors are a great starting point wherever you find yourself on the learning journey. Consider buying from a Black-owned, independent bookstore if you can!
Looking for more? Here are some books outside of IVP's catalog to check out:
Wondering how you can engage this holiday as a church community? Consider incorporating Black theologians, authors, and thinkers into your teaching and curriculum, or organizing a screening of one of the documentaries mentioned below for your church or small group. It's important to hear directly from Black teachers and theologians—we can help with that! Check out these resources from IVP and beyond:
Books aren't the only tools for learning. Documentaries, podcasts, web resources, and even social media can be great for engaging with a variety of stories and perspectives, especially in sustained and continuing ways. Check out these resources if you're looking to diversify your feed, your TV watch list, or your podcast queue:
While learning is an essential first step, celebrating Juneteenth is also about action. Finding practical, meaningful ways of investing our time and resources in God's work of justice is just as important as educating ourselves and our churches. Here are five practical steps you can take this Juneteenth as you seek the common good, especially for marginalized sisters and brothers: