Why I Changed My Mind About Juneteenth

I didn’t grow up in a segregated world nor one where human slavery was practiced– at least locally. Some Muslim nations still quietly tolerate it in other parts of the world.

I’d never heard of Juneteenth until a few years ago. At first blush, I assumed it was being promoted for race hustling purposes, aimed to divide the country further, or advance the march of cultural Marxism in the USA. I was hesitant and slightly cynical.

Then I changed my mind. I now conclude it is worthy of great celebration in our nation. 

Here’s why.

Celebrating Juneteenth

I never felt the sting of past slavery or racial discrimination until our family lived in Washington, D.C. during the 1980’s. At that time, the city was eighty percent black and the older generation had experienced the humiliation of being treated like second class citizens in previous decades.

Not me.

I grew up on the west coast which didn’t have a large African-American population fifty years ago. I went to the largest high school in the state of Washington which probably had no more than fifty black students out of 1200. Most classmates were colorblind and many blacks were very close friends.

One African American pal at our school, Joe Washington, (how’s that for an all-American name?) beat me out for student body president in 9th grade. He was a great hurdler and became a well-known news broadcaster in Atlanta.

I guess my classmate voters had never heard of white supremacy.

Another black friend, Ruth Thomas, tried out and was chosen one of the “elite” cheerleaders at the school. She went on to become an accomplished singer and preacher. At one of our recent classmate events, we invited Ruth to headline the evening as our own “Aretha Franklin.”

She brought down the house.

I never thought of Joe and Ruth as “black,” nor do I think they thought of me as “white.” We loved and supported each other because we believed in the “content of each other’s character.”

That’s how it’s supposed to be. But many African-Americans elsewhere missed that perspective. Their ancestors were slaves in our nation and their grandparents went to the back of the bus though slavery was evil and discrimination degrading. 

Now we have two “bookend” holidays five months apart on the American calendar–MLK Day in January and Juneteenth in June to remember the price that African Americans paid and many white soldiers fought and died for to live up to our U.S. Constitution. 

I’ll let one of my favorite columnists, Jarrett Stepman, make the case for Juneteenth.

Make sure to read his two ending paragraphs twice.

Juneteenth is About the Triumph of American Freedom Over Slavery

The elimination of slavery in the United States—an institution as old as human civilization but out of step with the nation’s founding principles—did not happen all at once.

During the Civil War, the freeing of slaves came in many stages, starting with President Abraham Lincoln’s famed Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.

But a declaration on paper did not mean that slavery was eliminated in reality. Years of hard fighting to save the nation from dissolution and to ensure the freedom of Southern black slaves lay ahead for the Union Army.

Emancipation came in waves and often simply followed the march of the Union Army.

Texas, for example, was far from the main action in the Civil War, so it took longer for the practical effects of Union victory and the Emancipation Proclamation to take effect there. In fact, it took two full months for emancipation to reach the Lone Star State after Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Most Confederate holdouts finally capitulated in June, after which the Union occupied the state and put it under military command.

When Union Gen. Gordon Granger steamed into Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, as the newly appointed commander of the District of Texas, one of his first orders of business was to declare all of the state’s slaves free.

Granger’s proclamation read:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the executive of the United States, ‘all slaves are free.’ This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.

The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts, and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

By command of Maj. Gen. Granger.

It may seem strange to Americans accustomed to having instant news access through the internet, but many of the slaves in Texas had no idea that Lincoln had even issued the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier.

The immediate response of former slaves wasn’t exactly jubilation, as many lived in fear of retribution from their former masters. Nevertheless, a year later, many of the freed slaves began celebrating “Juneteenth,” a holiday in recognition of their freedom.

At risk of violence, thousands came out to celebrate what to them was freedom at last. And the risks were indeed great—though they were technically protected by the Freedmen’s Bureau, a temporary agency for transitioning black freedmen to a new life of liberty, and the Union Army, whose “protection” was no guarantee of safety.

The New York Times described the festivities 150 year later:

Embraced as an exuberant day of jubilee, Juneteenth combined a history lesson and a political rally with the gospel hymns and sermons of a church service. Barbecue was soon added to the mix—this being Texas—with strawberry-flavored red soda water to wash it down. In time, rodeos, baseball games, and family reunions all became part of Juneteenth traditions.

Juneteenth is thought to be the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. It eventually became national, yet it is often overlooked.

In the grand arc of world history, tyranny is common. Liberty is rare. It is a monumental triumph of American civilization that within a century of its creation, the institution of slavery—which had planted its roots so deeply—was eradicated in the United States through the power of our founding ideals and the force of the U.S. military.

For many Americans, the abolition of slavery fulfilled the promise of our nation’s founding: The timeless truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence would at last apply to everyone, as they were intended.

*  * *   

It doesn’t matter who’s currently pushing the new Juneteenth holiday just like it makes no difference that retailers exploit Christmas. Christmas celebrates Jesus, the Savior of the world. Juneteenth commemorates the final victory of “free at last.”

In the “Revival Bible,” Winkie Pratney shares a sketch of George Fox, the Quaker founder, who sowed the seeds for the abolition of slavery back in the 17th century. Here’s the quote:

Because Fox loved God, he really loved people…God and man were essentially related because their spiritual frontiers are continuous [eternal] and undivided [one Spirit]. There is something in man that is not of dust, or earth, or flesh, or time, but of God…Faith gave him [Fox] an exalted sense of the infinite worth and preciousness of every person of every type and degree.

George Fox was the “morning star” of the abolition of slavery. Let’s be the “evening constellation” that relegates racial discrimination to the ash heap of history.

Happy Juneteenth to all Americans.


  1. Steve Hall on June 22, 2023 at 8:38 am

    Thanks Ron for this very enlightning perspective. It has helped me see Juneteenth in a much more wholistic light. May the Lord use that day, and many other ways too, to bring freedom and love among the people of our nation–under Him.

  2. Don Schiele on June 22, 2023 at 6:13 am

    Thanks Ron, very thought provoking!

  3. Sharon Kay Gakin on June 21, 2023 at 7:23 pm

    Thank you for this fresh look at yet another event that can/has been twisted by politics. It has opened my eyes.
    Later…I found an explanation of Juneteenth on Pluto free tv! After I watch Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green, I’m going to watch Juneteenth Explained.

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