Juneteenth: know history, improve present


I’ve always enjoyed history. In fact, I still feel a little jolt of happiness when I think of the biography section in my elementary school library. It’s not surprising then, that I majored in history in college and later completed a master’s in education with a concentration in history.

Years later, when my oldest was a senior in high school, one of her friends was at our house talking about a history project. “It’s about the Japanese Internment,” she explained. “Unbelievable what we did to them, isn’t it?”

“Japanese Internwhat?” I asked her. I kid you not, I had no idea what she meant.

“You know, during World War II,” she continued.

“What during World War II?” I was clueless. So, she explained.

“The US forced citizens of Japanese descent to relocate to concentration camps,” she said. “They lost property, businesses, and relationships. It was horrible.”

“That did not happen,” I told her. “I have studied a lot of history. I have taught history in a university. I have NEVER heard anything like this. Ever. This would not happen in the US [oh the naivete]. Where did you hear this?”


She showed me her credible sources and I had to concede that in fact, all those history classes I had taken (plus the textbooks I used when I taught) had left out some of the more unpleasant aspects of US history. I got busy educating myself about the Japanese Internment–it really did happen after all–and was shocked by what I learned.

The same goes for Juneteenth. Until a couple of years ago, I had never heard of Juneteenth, the anniversary of when all enslaved persons in the US finally got the word that their oppressors had been struck down and that the law was on the side of their freedom. The Emancipation Proclamation had been signed two and a half years previously and the war had been over for over two months. Those who were enslaved in Texas were the last to receive the word–on June 19, 1865. I guess I just assumed they saw the announcement in the night sky or something.

In the biblical book of Galatians, Paul says this:

You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus.  All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:26-29 (CEB)

Paul said this because the people needed to hear it: they needed to stop labeling each other and start loving each other. But what if the Galatians responded to Paul saying, “We are not labelling anyone. We are followers of Christ, and we would NEVER . . .?” My guess is they would have missed out on some valuable opportunities for growth of the everlasting variety.

We have some unpleasant things in our past–as individuals and as citizens. We don’t have to wallow in those muddy places, but we do need to know they are there. So, take time this week and learn a little something about Juneteenth. And while you’re at it, look up Japanese Internment as well. Then, ask God to help you know better so you can do better.

Paul says in Galatians 3:26-27, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Let’s do the hard work to make this passage reality–even if it means going through some of our own dirty laundry to get there.

By Aileen MItchell Lawrimore

Aileen Mitchell Lawrimore is a mother x 3, wife x 35 (years not men), minister, speaker, writer, retreat leader, and lover of beagles and books. She has a lot to say.