By Commission on Religion and Race
At Grace, we are renewing our efforts to proclaim the value of each person as a unique child of God and commit ourselves to the healing and wholeness of all persons. (The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church). As part of our commitment to confront and eliminate racism, we must also commit to both learning and unlearning.
On Thursday, June 17, 2021 Juneteenth was declared an official federal holiday. Juneteenth is the first holiday to be approved since Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which was established in 1983.The Commission on Religion and Race at Grace would like to share a bit about Juneteenth, its connection to Methodism, and encourage you to lean in and learn more.
Retrieved in part from:
Juneteenth (a blending of the words June and nineteenth) also known as Emancipation Day, commemorates June 19, 1865: the day that Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and told slaves of their emancipation--two and a half years after U.S. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
Former slaves rejoiced, and June 19th became an annual celebration in Texas and in neighboring states where former slaves had migrated. Toward the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, as textbooks left out mention of Juneteenth, as Jim Crow laws began to further disenfranchise African Americans, as the Great Depression took hold, Juneteenth celebrations declined. Juneteenth found a resurgence during the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and in 1980 Texas declared Juneteenth an official state holiday.
As Methodists, we can participate in Juneteenth by joining in song. Hymn Number 519 of our hymnal “Lift Every Voice and Sing” has been adopted by many as the “African-American National Anthem”.
Hear and see it here:
As we reflect upon the music and lyrics we might be amazed at the power of the song to “have the capacity to define the identity of an entire group”. (C. Michael Hahn)
Lift ev'ry voice and sing
'Til earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list'ning skies
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on 'til victory is won
Stony the road we trod
Bitter the chastening rod
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died
Yet with a steady beat
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered
Out from the gloomy past
'Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast
God of our weary years
God of our silent tears
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light
Keep us forever in the path, we pray
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee
Shadowed beneath Thy hand
May we forever stand
True to our God
True to our native land
It is significant that there is not even one appearance in this hymn of a singular pronoun — all are plural. The hymn is a shared expression of an entire people with common sufferings, common strivings, and common hopes. And this accounts for the importance of this hymn to African Americans of all faiths, and for its being regarded as a national anthem.
The above information was retrieved from the following source.
For additional history of the hymn:
For more about the text of the hymn: