America was founded on the belief that humans were made to be free. Our country has a checkered history of living into that belief. All my life I have celebrated July 4 as Independence Day, commemorating the ratification of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
But not all Americans celebrate that date for freedom. The country being formed in 1776 did not provide for freedom for everyone within its borders. The U.S. Constitution became the law of the land in 1787, but allowed for slave ownership.
A generation later, the American Civil War ended legal slavery, and paved the way for true freedom for all Americans. But the end of the war did not bring freedom to all who were enslaved. On June 19, 1865, months after the war ended, Major General Gordon Granger and his troops marched into Galveston, Texas to enforce the emancipation proclaimed by President Lincoln in January 1863. This deliverance is celebrated today as Juneteenth.
I have recently learned that, according to some, white Americans celebrate freedom on July 4 while Black Americans celebrate freedom on June 19. Wouldn't it be great if all Americans could come together to celebrate freedom, as imperfect as our country may be?
A group in Eden, NC is seeking to bring the celebration of freedom together across racial lines with a "Freedom Fortnight Festivity." On June 24 at Leaksville United Methodist Church they plan a huge party featuring classic July 4 dishes and classic Juneteenth foods. You can find out more about the event here.
I did a little research on Freedom Fortnight and found nothing about it on the internet, except the event mentioned above. I thought maybe this kind of celebration had taken root across the country. I guess not.
So maybe we can find common ground on freedom, whether we celebrate 1776 or 1865. We can come together and acknowledge that "all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."
If we can celebrate freedom together, across racial lines, we can learn to love our neighbors. We are way overdue.