12 Jun 2003 Project 21 Press Release: Black Network Celebrates Civil Rights Anniversary: “Juneteenth” Commemorates the End of Slavery, Promotes Dedication to Self-Determination – June 2003
“Juneteenth” – the oldest official celebration marking the end of slavery in America – is observed nationwide on June 19th. Members of the African-American leadership network Project 21 ask African-Americans everywhere to use this day to honor and celebrate the progress that has already been made by blacks in America while remembering the challenges that still face the African-American community.
Juneteenth commemorates the anniversary of the arrival of Union soldiers in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865. The soldiers carried the news that the Civil War was over and that slavery had been abolished two-and-a-half years earlier. The anniversary of this date quickly became a stabilizing and motivating presence in the lives of African-Americans facing the uncertainty associated with their newly acquired freedom. The observance of Juneteenth quickly spread from Texas to be recognized in black communities across the United States.
Juneteenth is celebrated in many diverse ways, but education and self-improvement have been constant themes at community gatherings and picnics throughout the years. In 1980, Juneteenth was made an official state holiday in Texas. Other states are considering bestowing similar status upon the date. It is also featured in the programming of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
Although absolute racial equality does not yet exist in the United States, occasions such as Juneteenth celebrate how far hard-working African-Americans have advanced and highlight how the goals of a better life can be attained through continued determination.
“Even though we’ve had to overcome a great deal of obstacles in years past, our greatest days still lie ahead of us,” said Project 21 member Jerry Brooks. “If we have the foresight to move froward with enthusiasm and wisdom, nothing can stand in our way.”
Statistics show many African-Americans already take advantage of the opportunities now available to them. Black high school graduation rates now equal whites. Since 1960, the percentage of the African-American college graduates has more than quadrupled. Similarly, the median weekly salary for African-Americans rose by 44 percent between 1985 and 1997, and black homeownership is at its highest level ever.
Project 21 has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x106 or [email protected], or visit Project 21’s website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.