June 2024

Juneteenth 2024 | A Day of Jubilee

US history is replete with actions that declare freedom to be an essential value for American citizens.  Iliff School of Theology, therefore, declares, “We Advocate Freedom!”  This declaration includes celebrating the abolitionist and emancipatory spirit in American history that announces liberty.  June 19th, celebrated as Juneteenth, is a federal holiday that announces freedom anew in America.  Juneteenth commemorates and celebrates the end of the Civil War and the emancipation of all Africans who were enslaved in Confederate States.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863, legislated freedom did not go into full effect until June 19, 1865, when Union troops arrived in Galveston, TX bringing the word that the War had ended and the enslaved population was freed under executive order.  The freedom that enslaved Africans had longed for was finally realized.  It was not the 4th of July that declared enslaved Africans free.  Life with liberty was not extended to, nor did it include African originated peoples.  The post-Revolutionary period identified enslaved Africans as property and slaves for life.  Freedom from State legislated slavery came 89 years after the Declaration of Independence.

During the Civil War, Africans who fled slavery and reached Union encampments were not identified as free.  They were instead labeled as contraband, still associated with the concept of property, yet as a status of not enslaved but not freed.  Juneteenth calls the nation to an eschatological awareness of freedom’s presence and not yet free.  It calls for the nation to reflect upon a legacy of racial oppression, colonizer exceptionalism, and unequal treatment under the law.  Juneteenth is a Day of Jubilee that celebrates freedom with dignity.

Iliff has been a theological institution that supports the work of abolition, emancipation, and liberation.  We recognize that freedom is more than a sentiment.  We who believe in freedom have the task of declaring freedom for all those still living in bondage as contraband.  We must work to remove the obstacles that create a shadow that blocks the sight of emancipation.  We Advocate Freedom for All!