June 19, 1865 (Juneteenth)

On Saturday, June 19th we commemorate the end of slavery in the United States, and we also honor all of those who have, and continue to, advocate for freedom.

While June 19th, known by many in our nation as Juneteenth, commemorating the day in 1865 when the enslaved people of Texas, deceived and exploited, learned that they had been emancipated more than two years earlier, many African Americans in our present day society suffer from the legacy of this shameful part of our country’s history. The violence in our neighborhoods, the endemic poverty suffered by many, lack of adequate education, housing and job opportunities are all modern manifestations of a continued lack of freedom for Black people in America.

On June 19th, 1963 the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, while confined to a jail cell in Birmingham, Ala., wrote a letter to his fellow clergymen in which he said the following:

“Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”
— Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

As we commemorate June 19th, let us celebrate the day when freedom was finally proclaimed, and as Christians, let us ask our Lord through prayer and reflection to guide us individually and as a Church community to work for racial justice.