In This Story
This weekend we celebrate Juneteenth, commemorating June 19th, 1865, when word of Emancipation finally reached the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas, marking a symbolic end to slavery in the United States. The Commonwealth of Virginia established Juneteenth as a state holiday last year, and the Senate (unanimously) and House (overwhelmingly) just voted to make it a national holiday going forward. President Biden is expected to sign it soon.
In the spirit of celebration and contemplation, I want to share a piece of good radio that I recently heard on NPR’s Morning Edition.
This is part of the “Rising Sun Music Project” series with pianist Lara Downes, on the contributions of Black musicians in the classical music space. This 5 minute piece features two treatments of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (1905) by James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson. “Lift Every Voice,” known as the Black National Anthem, is often heard at Juneteenth celebrations across the country as well as in church and other settings. The NPR piece also looks at (and listens to) two versions of Sam Cooke’s great Civil Rights song “A Change is Gonna Come” (1964).
I am very glad that this important day in American history is finally getting broader, and more official, recognition. Freedom, equally available to all, is indeed something to celebrate – and to keep working toward. Let’s take time to both celebrate and contemplate this moment and this work on the occasion of Juneteenth.