Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada made the following statement today, honoring the 142nd anniversary of Juneteenth Independence Day:
“We celebrate an important anniversary today, one that allows us to both remember the cruelty of slavery so many endured and celebrate the freedoms we now enjoy.
“On this day in 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to deliver the treasured news of freedom. More than two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and months after the Civil War came to an end, Major General Gordon Granger and his soldiers finally informed Galveston’s slaves that they were free men and women. These Americans celebrated June 19 as their day of emancipation and Juneteenth Independence Day, as it is commonly known, has been celebrated in the Southwest ever since.
“We solemnly mark this date as a significant milestone in the abolition of slavery. June 19 marks the very last day Americans were slaves in the United States. People around the world now look to this event as an historic moment in the fight against injustice. We commemorate Juneteenth to celebrate the triumph of liberty and the first day it was enjoyed by all people in every corner of America. As we do so, we continue our work to ensure all Americans enjoy the liberties our nation promises.
“In commemorating the liberation of enslaved African-Americans, it is imperative that we pause to reflect upon the contributions that these enslaved Americans and their descendants have made toward making America the strong nation it is today. From the unknown slaves who helped build the U.S. Capitol to A. Philip Randolph and his efforts to secure fair wages for the Pullman porters to the sanitation workers whom Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sought to organize on the eve of his death, the 142nd anniversary of Juneteenth is an opportunity not only to celebrate how far we’ve advanced, but also to focus on the plight of those within the African-American community who have been left behind.
“As the story of Galveston’s slaves illustrates, laws like Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation do not alone make men free. Our actions outside the halls of government must match our words within them if we are to truly provide equality to all Americans.”