Juneteenth ~ June 19

Juneteenth is a holiday/special day that has increased in focus in past years. It's a remembrance of the date June 19, 1865 when slavery was officially ended (finally) in the United States. Today's music lesson for Juneteenth will focus on music that was used to help end slavery in the 1860s. Other music ideas that could be studied for this holiday will also be mentioned.

What is Juneteenth?

The word Juneteenth is a blend of the month June and the day nineteenth. There are other names the day is also known by: Freedom Day, Liberation Day, Jubilee Day, America's Second Independence Day, Emancipation Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, and Black Independence Day,

According to thoughtco.com, Juneteenth "honors slaves, African-American heritage, and the many contributions Blacks have made to the United States." It's not an official federal holiday, but Juneteenth is recognized as a holiday by 47 of the 50 states.

President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 which ended slavery in the states of the Confederacy. However, since those states considered themselves a separate nation at the time and were immersed in the Civil War, slavery wasn't officially ended everywhere for 2 ½ more years. So, June 19, 1865 became the day that the final town in the United States that still held onto slavery (Galveston, Texas) granted their slaves freedom.

Music Lesson for Juneteenth

According to blackamericaweb.com, "While there aren’t any official Juneteenth songs, as the celebrations grew so did the adopting of so-called 'Freedom Songs' or spirituals that are largely connected to the civil rights movement. Standout songs like 'Lift Every Voice And Sing,' 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,' and 'This Little Light Of Mine' also figured prominently in Juneteenth gatherings over the decades."

So, let's listen to these three songs today for today's music lesson for Juneteenth.

"Lift Every Voice and Sing"

The poem "Lift Every Voice and Sing" was introduced in 1900 by African-American educator James Weldon Johnson to mark Abraham Lincoln's birthday. Later, the poem was set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson in 1905. Wikipedia describes "Lift Every Voice and Sing" this way: "The song is a prayer of thanksgiving for faithfulness and freedom, with imagery evoking the biblical Exodus from slavery to the freedom of the 'promised land'."

Listen to it masterfully sung here by the a cappella singing group Committed:

Lyrics of "Lift Every Voice and Sing"

Lift every voice and sing, 'til 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 'til victory is won

Now God of our weary years, God of our silent tears

Thou Who hast brought us thus far on our way

Thou Who hast by Thy might, led us into the light

Keep us forever in the path, we pray

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 'til victory is won

"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"

"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" is a spiritual. The genre of songs called spirituals (also known as Negro spirituals or African American spirituals) came from African American slaves and was only in the oral tradition (not written down or recorded) until the 1900s. The lyrics often spoke of the hardships of slavery and biblical beliefs such as the freedom they would all receive in heaven.

Here are the lyrics:

Swing low, sweet chariot Coming for to carry me home Swing low, sweet chariot Coming for to carry me home I looked over Jordan, and what did I see? (Coming for to carry me home) A band of angels coming after me (Coming for to carry me home)

Chorus:

If you get there before I do (Coming for to carry me home) Tell all of my friends, that I'm coming there too (Coming for to carry me home)

The first known recording of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" was by the Fisk Jubilee Singers of Fisk University in 1909. Listen to that recording here:

And now listen to it sung by American singer Etta James (1938 - 2012). She sang soul, R&B, blues, gospel, jazz, and rock and roll styles of music.

"This Little Light of Mine"

"This Little Light of Mine" is a gospel song written for children in the 1920s by Harry Dixon Loes.

Lyrics of "This Little Light of Mine"

This little light of mine I'm going to let it shine

Oh, this little light of mine I'm going to let it shine

This little light of mine I'm going to let it shine

Let it shine, all the time, let it shine

All around the neighborhood I'm going to let it shine

All around the neighborhood I'm going to let it shine

All around the neighborhood I'm going to let it shine

Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.

Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm going to let it shine

Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm going to let it shine

Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm going to let it shine

Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.

Don't let Satan [blow] it out! I'm going to let it shine

Don't let Satan [blow] it out! I'm going to let it shine

Don't let Satan [blow] it out! I'm going to let it shine

Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.

Let it shine till Jesus comes! I'm going to let it shine

Let it shine till Jesus comes! I'm going to let it shine

Let it shine till Jesus comes! I'm going to let it shine

Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.

Music for "This Little Light of Mine"

Continue Learning

If you would like to continue further with your music lesson for Juneteenth with "honoring slaves, African-American heritage, and the many contributions Blacks have made to the United States" I have other music lessons you can take a look at:

15-Minute+Music+Lesson+Printable+Pack.pdf
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