by Karl Hitzemann
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. It was on June 19, 1865, that Major General Gordon Granger and the Union army landed in Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This was two and a half years after President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger's regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance. In 1979, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday, and today most states hold Juneteenth observances.
For our song "Juneteenth" we went for a somewhat thoughtful, melancholy sound that depicts the triumph of the end of slavery, but also the great struggle and loss that came with it. The song has an easygoing tempo and gentle accompaniment, which features guitars and banjo along with a piano and string section, and the melody is fairly easy to learn. The second time at measure 26 there is an optional second vocal part. The song will still sound nice without it, of course, but some of your singers might like to give it a try. On our web site, you will find an isolated part 2 rehearsal track that will help them learn the part. (See details on page 64 for accessing this extra track.)
There are many cross curricular opportunities here with topics like slavery, the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation, and much more. As with any topic that you can bring across the curriculum through the use of music, we recommend you communicate with other teachers to let them know of this useful musical tool.
Also, if you are interested in doing an entire program or segment of a program dedicated to African American history, President Lincoln, the Civil War, etc., we have many other songs that would work very well. "Free At Last" (Music K-8, Vols. 9 & 23, No. 3), "The Road To Freedom" (Music K-8, Vol. 12, No. 3), "Abraham Lincoln" (Music K-8, Vol. 25, No. 3), "Battle Hymn For Gettysburg" (Music K-8, Vol. 19, No. 3), "Follow The Drinking Gourd" (Music K-8, Vol. 13, No. 3), just to name a few. Please see our complete Index (available in print and online at MusicK8.com) for more options.
Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.