Coffee Break: Freedom songs for Juneteenth

Juneteenth Emancipation Day Celebration, June 19, 1900, Texas
Juneteenth Emancipation Day Celebration, June 19, 1900, Texas (The Portal to Texas History, via Wikimedia Commons)

Today is Juneteenth and The Current is observing this important holiday all day. Each hour, we're airing a Musicheads Essential features that highlight the work and lives of Black artists. And, we've got three guest DJ sets, from Kevin Beacham, Muja Messiah, and deM AtlaS.

In honor of Juneteenth, what freedom songs do you want to hear for today's 9:30 Coffee Break?

Thanks to Dr. Keith Mayes, a professor in the department of African American and African studies at the University of Minnesota, for joining us this morning to talk about the history of Juneteenth, as well as the necessity for more extensive Black history to be present in the curriculum taught in K-12 classrooms. "We need these parallel, separate histories," Dr. Mayes says, "but if we really told the true story of the United States, we wouldn't even need them."

What is Juneteenth? Listen to the conversation with Dr. Mayes, or dive in a little here:

"Juneteenth is a celebration that began on June 19, 1865. It was a commemoration that began when General Granger came into Galveston, Texas, on that day to announce to many of the enslaved Africans that the war was essentially coming to an end and that they were free; they no longer had to toil on plantations.

Although, there had been something called the Emancipation Proclamation, which was issued on September 22, 1862, but it, of course, went into effect on January 1, 1863. Many of the slaves in the South had not received word of that, because they were either in remote locations, the Confederate military effort was maybe not as pronounced in certain areas, the Union army may not have come through, so by the time they did come through, as the war was closing down, they ran across many Africans who were still enslaved on a lot of plantations in East Texas, and they proclaimed that slavery had ended. That was the day that African Americans in that location began to celebrate something that was called Jubilee Day, in the beginning, and then it turned into Juneteenth. The first celebration was June 19, 1866, a year after."

Respond with your "freedom" song ideas in the comments below.

Have an idea for a Coffee Break topic? Submit your idea for a future theme and browse past Coffee Breaks in our archive.

Songs played

Odetta - Oh Freedom
Richie Havens - Freedom (Motherless Child) (Live at Woodstock)
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - This Land Is Your Land
The Staple Singers - Freedom Highway
Beyonce - Freedom feat. Kendrick Lamar
Jimi Hendrix - Freedom


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