-GAINS & GLEANINGS-
By J. Hogan
Juneteenth is a holiday some don’t grasp the meaning of, others don’t care for, and many celebrate.
When President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1963, ending chatel slavery in America, it was a cause he believed in, yet, he had ulterior motives, too. England had ended their participation in the slave trade years earlier, and the Confederate States were lobbying to have England and France side with the South in the Civil War.
By declaring the United States overtly anti-slavery, Lincoln all but assured England would not join forces with the confederacy on moral grounds.
As the northern armies chased down the Army of Northern Virginia through Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia, they freed slaves in each area they took.
Juneteenth was birthed out of another region. In Texas, slaveholders simply did not tell their slaves they had been freed. No army showed up to free them, so for another two years the slaves in Texas labored on, unaware that their circumstance had changed.
On June 19th of 1865, word spread throughout Texas and slaves rejoiced at their newfound freedom – although with some trepidation. The only life they’d known was now gone, and they didn’t know what the future held. Many quickly entered into servitude agreements with their former “owners” and took a parcel of land to work in exchange for most of the crops it would produce.
Juneteenth is a federal holiday now, recognizing both the struggle and victimhood of slavery and celebrating the freeing of the slaves.
It should be celebrated. Not as a Black or Caucasian holiday, but as an American holiday in which everyone celebrates the long march toward freedom.
We should also be inspired by it. That same longing for liberty prevails today in the hearts of many in oppressed countries like China and Venezuela, and it speaks to the God-given desire to walk in freedom.
Juneteenth also reminds us that some who long for freedom don’t recognize they have it at their fingertips. Jesus often mentioned that the Kingdom of Heaven is “at hand,” meaning within reach, one only has to reach out and grasp it. Often folks complaining about their circumstance, looking at every bump in the road as a mountain placed for their defeat instead of a challenge to learn from and overcome, are trapped.
Their neighbor, who charges ahead in spite of difficulties not only experiences more success, but they walk in the liberty afforded by the knowledge that they are free to face down life’s challenges and plow through.
The truth, the Bible says, shall set you free. In 1965, the battle wasn’t over – an entire Civil Rights battle lay ahead – but freedom was at hand, and immediately some started to grasp that freedom and make a way forward in the risks, challenges and victories which liberty brings about.
Embrace Juneteenth… and embrace its message that we are all meant to know freedom, walk in it and experience its fruit.
Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church in Stowe.