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NYSACDL Statement Recognizing the Importance of the Juneteenth Holiday

Friday, June 19, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jennifer Van Ort
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NYSACDL Statement Recognizing the  
Importance of the Juneteenth Holiday

June 19, 2020

Albany, NY - The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. In it, President Lincoln wrote "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."

One would hope in a civilized society there would be no need for such words. One would expect that citizens would answer that call to action and treat each person regardless of the color of their skin as sisters and brothers and not as chattel. But our nation would endure another two and a half years until June 19, 1865 for the announcement in Galveston that all slaves in Texas would be free.  An Order was read to the people of Texas, which began most significantly with:

The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.

Texas was the final state to fully recognize the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln.

Everyday Black people live and experience the simple truth that proclamations are not enough. We do not yet live in an equal society. Not all people share the same rights. Not all people are truly free. 

This Juneteenth let us reflect on the two-and a half year battle from the Emancipation Proclamation to June 19, 1865 and recognize that the struggle took far too long.  Let us look at the painful years that followed, let us learn from our past, and build bridges and pathways to our future. For our society to endure we must do more than read and listen to words, do more than issue proclamations, we should live and abide by the principle on which our Country was built: “all... are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In honor of Juneteenth, NYSACDL rededicates itself to doing all we can to further and support criminal justice initiatives and legislation to ensure that we hold others accountable for their obligations to live by those words.