Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid released the following statement on the 140th anniversary of Juneteenth:
Washington, D.C. – “On Sunday, June 19, 2005, we pause to recognize the date commonly referred to as Juneteenth. On this day in 1865, over two years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Union Soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas, and delivered news to slaves there that they were free. In the years since, Juneteenth is a day that has come to be marked by celebrations of freedom and by reflections on our past.
“This year, we observe the 140th anniversary of Juneteenth. The anniversary offers us an opportunity to reflect on the progress our country has made in the years since those soldiers arrived in Galveston, and it also gives us the opportunity to remember just how far we have to go to ensure the founding principles of our country – liberty, justice and equality – are a reality for every American.
“The truth is, the lasting crimes of slavery are still among us and can be seen in the disparities faced by African Americans in areas such as health care, the economy and our political system. These disparities must be addressed before the horrors of slavery can ever be put to rest.
“In the coming months, Congress and the President will have the opportunity to continue to move our country in the right direction by reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act, which is set to expire in 2007. The Voting Rights Act and subsequent re-authorizations have led to a dramatic increase in the political participation of African Americans. There are currently over 9,100 African Americans serving in elected office, including 43 Members of Congress. There is no better memorial to the suffering of slavery than ensuring fairness and equal opportunity exist for African Americans in our political process.
“In addition to the Voting Rights Act, I encourage all my colleagues to oppose efforts to cut Medicaid, a program that provides health care to millions of African Americans, and to continue to address disparities in our health care system, so that the color of your skin never determines the quality of your care.
“As we mark another Juneteenth day and embrace the vision behind it, we should recommit ourselves to goals like these that end racial disparities and expand opportunity to every American.”