Juneteenth is Here – Let’s “Lift Every Voice”

Juneteenth New Bern

On Saturday, we will celebrate Juneteenth and this complicated concept of being Free-ish.

Juneteenth marks June 19, 1865. This was the day when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce the end of the Civil War and slavery. Technically the Emancipation Proclamation had freed slaves more than two years earlier before those enslaved in Texas were unaware or kept from their freedom.

Each year, Juneteenth is a day to celebrate freedom and to talk about injustice.

I was around the age of 10 years old when my church asked me to sing a hymn that we called OUR national anthem.

Lift every voice and sing

Till earth and heaven ring

Ring with the harmonies of Liberty

Let our rejoicing rise

High as the listening 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 till 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?

The only problem is that when I stood up. I didn’t quite know the words. I had heard it sung, by the elders around, but we didn’t learn this anthem in school. My grandfather, a former sharecropper, marched me back to Sunday school. H.M. insisted that not just me, but all the children at our United Methodist church (formerly owned by slaveholders) learn this anthem.

Later, I learned that “Lift Every Voice and Sing” has held a powerful place in American history. The hymn is known as the Black National Anthem, and hearing the versus will help you understand that this is more than a song.

Writers Faith Karimi and AJ Willingham called it “A history lesson, a rallying cry, a pledge of unity, and as people gather to fight for equality and justice, it is an ever-present refrain.”

Look for your local Juneteenth celebration.

And listen.

Thank you for helping us to lift every voice.


Juneteenth Events in North Carolina

This list is certainly not all of the events happening in our state over the weekend to celebrate Juneteenth, you should check your local papers and social media for other opportunities to get involved.

Each event is different, some in this list are more historical based (touring parts of your town/city or viewing an art installation), some include performers and food trucks, some include religious ceremony.

All events below should be free, but please double-check. Some have links for “tickets” for vendors to rent space, but they should all be free to the public. 


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