JUNETEENTH INDEPENDENCE DAY -- (Senate - June 16, 2005)
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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I wish to recognize the upcoming Juneteenth celebration that will occur this Sunday, June 19, 2005. This celebration commemorates the end of slavery throughout the United States. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863, the information had not been passed to the most rural parts of the South until some two and a half years later when General Gordon Granger entered Galveston, TX on June 19, 1865, and issued the proclamation, officially freeing the town.
There are a number of theories to explain why it took so long for the message of freedom to reach many slaves throughout the South. While there is yet to be a definitive explanation for the delay, as we continue to recognize the importance of this date, we can be assured that scholars will continue to research this part of our Nation's history.
Annual Juneteenth celebrations have long been a part of our Nation's history. Although they were held in the years immediately following 1865, they were not popular in the Jim Crow-era South. In fact, they were banned from public property, and, in order to continue the celebrations, churches throughout the South held fundraisers to sponsor Juneteenth events. This was common until the Great Depression, when people could no longer afford the necessities of everyday life, let alone celebrations of our past. At the same time, in many public schools, teachers often focused discussion on the day of the Emancipation Proclamation, even though it had no immediate impact for slaves in many parts of the South. Thus, there was limited recognition of the importance of Juneteenth until the Texas legislature recognized it as an official holiday on January 1, 1980.
This weekend we recognize this important celebration. In so doing, we take time to reflect on the evil of slavery. This is a time to learn from the past and to redouble our efforts to ensure that the values of freedom and liberty in this country are afforded to all its citizens. Juneteenth is a day for reflection, for prayer and for hope that our country will continue to grow together in the spirit of liberty, equality and justice.
I am proud to honor the 140th commemoration of the African American emancipation day, Juneteenth, June 19, 1865.