United Methodists celebrate freedom on 150th Juneteenth

By Laura Buchanan
On June 19, 1865, federal troops under the command of Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas with a very important message: “all slaves are free.” 

juneteenth-austin-library-wikimedia-514x388It was not until two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect in 1863 that the estimated quarter of million slaves in Texas received word that they were free and entitled to payment for their labor. This memorable day in history is celebrated as African American Freedom Day, or Juneteenth.Now 150 years later, Juneteenth is commemorated across the country with parades, festivals, family activities, and worship services, reminding all of us that freedom was long sought and should not be taken for granted.

“Juneteenth is celebrated in a grand and glorious way, it marked a change that had to happen: slaves freed from bondage. Black Texans had a chance to chart their own course and their own futures,” said Arlene Youngblood, member of Wesley United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas. Youngblood participates in as many celebrations and activities as she can during the month of June, noting that slaves who migrated after receiving freedom started many of the events that are held across the nation.

Edna Reeves, member of Warren United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas, recalls attending Juneteenth festivities as a child. In the early 1950s, her father’s workplace would close in observation of the holiday and sponsor a day of celebration at a local park. Juneteenth has special meaning for her family: her great-great-grandfather was freed in Texas. “He was 15 years old when freedom came,” she said.

United Methodist churches across the country hold a variety of Juneteenth events and worship services.

To read the rest of Laura Buchanan’s story, click HERE.

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