On Juneteenth, Public Media Celebrates African American Freedom and Achievement
June 15, 2023
Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans and is celebrated on the anniversary of the order issued by Major General Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas proclaiming freedom for slaves in Texas on June 19, 1865.
This weekend, the third year that Juneteenth is celebrated as a federal holiday, public media offers numerous programs and resources focused on Black history, and events and music celebrating Black freedom and achievement.
Notes From America with Kai Wright, a WNYC podcast on “the unfinished business of our history and its grip on our future,” travels to Houston for a national special produced in partnership with Houston Public Media. Host Kai Wright talks about Black liberation with people in Texas and callers from across the nation. The special airs live on 123 public radio stations at 6 pm EDT/5 CDT on June 18, and will be made available to air on June 19 -- Juneteenth -- on public radio stations nationwide. (Check local listings for details.)
On June 16, the Texas Newsroom public radio journalism collaboration launches Sugar Land an eight-part investigative podcast on how the 2018 discovery of 95 unmarked graves in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land exposed the area’s history of post-Civil War prison labor camps, where Black men were forced to harvest sugar cane. “Sugar Land,” hosted by journalist Brittney Martin and anthropology professor Naomi Reed, was completed with support from FRONTLINE’s Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
- R&B, Blues and Hip Hop (June 16) featuring Eddie Levert of the O’Jays, Tweed Smith, Tamar Davis, Spud Howard, Mathias Lattin, J. Xavier and Liz Vaughn
- Jazz and inspirational (June 17) featuring Najee, Chris Walker, Bobby Lyle, Gene Moore, Treva Jones, Rhonda McLemore, Mark Taylor, Michael Dixon, Patrice Dominique and Wallace Grant
- Local talent (June 18) featuring Kollett, The GoodFellaz, Matthew Hartnett and The Gumbo All-Stars, Anthony Hall, Jenni P, Mario, Kai Hicks.
KTSU is also sponsoring an Emancipation Park celebration on June 17, featuring S.O.S. Band, The Original Lakeside, Step Rideaux, and V. Michael McKay.
This Juneteenth weekend marks one-year anniversaries for Urban Alternative stations HYFIN (Radio Milwaukee) and Carbon Sound (Minnesota Public Radio working with KMOJ). Carbon Sound is holding a Carbon Sound first birthday party on Juneteenth in Minneapolis; HYFIN is co-hosting a book club event featuring the book "Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures" by the National Museum of African American History and Culture on June 21 in Milwaukee.
In Atlanta, public radio station WCLK’s The Local Take with Kiplyn Primus interviewed Bob Johnson, who founded Juneteenth Atlanta 12 years ago. The interview is archived at WCLK.com; this year’s event features three days of activities at Centennial Olympic Park.
On television and online, Buffalo Soldiers: Fighting On Two Fronts, a documentary exploring the complex history of Black soldiers in the U.S. military, is streaming on the PBS app and PBS.org, and premieres as a Local, USA special on June 19 on WORLD, public media’s multi-platform hub for documentaries. Filmmaker Dru Holley tells the stories of the U.S. Army’s all-Black regiments, established by the Reorganization Act of 1866, including Charles Young, who was born into slavery and became the third Black graduate of West Point. “Buffalo Soldiers” headlines a collection of 18 films telling Black stories and the continuing fight for equality that WORLD is streaming for free this month.
On PBS KIDS, the concluding episodes of the mystery podcast Keyshawn Solves It drop, appropriately, on Juneteenth. The eight-episode podcast tells the story of a10-year-old African American boy who inherits a set of keys that can unlock almost any door. Keyshawn and his friend Kiki use these keys to help solve the mystery of disappearing bikes in their North Minneapolis neighborhood so that the Juneteenth bike parade can go on. PBS KIDS also offers an essay for parents by creator Ed Jenkins and Elaine McNeil-Girmai about how to talk to children about Juneteenth. “Keyshawn Solves It” was produced by GBH Kids and is distributed by PRX and PBS KIDS with funding made possible in part by Black Public Media. Creator Ed Jenkins developed an early version of the podcast through the CPB-supported Ready To Learn Podcast Accelerator.
Online, the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, a collaboration between GBH and the Library of Congress and founded with CPB support, offers a wide range of archival public television and public radio programming on Black history. A sampling of American Archive content related to slavery, Emancipation, and Juneteenth:
- The Civil War: Interviews with Barbara Fields (1987): Professor Barbara Fields describes how slavery brought the nation to Civil War, including the way slaves took political action to gain emancipation and fight for their equality. This raw interview footage is featured in the American Archive Ken Burns’ The Civil War Interviews collection.
- History of the Negro People: Free at Last (National Educational Television and Radio Center, WNET, 1965): The history of African Americans from emancipation to the end of World War II is told through dramatic readings of writings by Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, and Marcus Garvey.
- 100 Years of Freedom: James Baldwin (KPFA, Pacifica Radio, 1963): Writer and activist James Baldwin gives a 17-minute speech at the University of California at Berkeley on the fight for Black civil rights since the Emancipation Proclamation.
- BackStory: Henceforth Free: The Emancipation Proclamation (Virginia Humanities, 2015): An episode marking the 150th anniversary of the passage of the 13th Amendment explores how Americans thought about emancipation in 1862, and how its meaning has shifted since then. The episode includes the voices of former slaves themselves, remembering their first experiences of freedom.
- North Carolina People: John Hope Franklin, historian (UNC-TV, 2005): Author of the 1947 best-selling “From Slavery to Freedom,” Franklin was a grandson of a freed slave and son of civil rights lawyer “Amazing Buck Franklin.” At age 90, John Hope Franklin talks to host William Friday about his new book, “Mirror to America: The autobiography of John Hope Franklin.”
- NewsNight Minnesota (Twin Cities Public Television, June 11, 1997): A segment on the history of Juneteenth with Dr. David Taylor, dean of the general college at the University of Minnesota.
- ): A segment on noted author Ralph Ellison, who wrote Invisible Man in 1952, Ellison’s book Juneteenth was published after his death in 1994 and this story on NewsHour features interviews with Ellison’s Juneteenth editor Dr. John Callahan and scholar and writer Charles Johnson.
- Moyers On Democracy Podcast; Rev. Dr. James Forbes: Juneteenth (2020): Bill Moyers talks with Rev. Dr. James Forbes, senior minister emeritus at New York City’s historic Riverside Church and organizer of Juneteenth celebrations in New York City.
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