18 Jun 2007 Black Conservatives Mark “Juneteenth” Civil Rights Holiday
Members of the Project 21 black leadership network are asking that the oldest and most recognized commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States – “Juneteenth,” observed on June 19 – be used as a day for reflection on the struggle for freedom and the ongoing quest for self-empowerment.
Project 21 members urge black Americans to use this day to embrace their inherent talents and strengthen their ties with family and community for the betterment of themselves and future generations.
“The abolishment of slavery paved the way for blacks to empower themselves and opened the doors for freedom and opportunities,” said Project 21 Fellow Deneen Borelli. “Juneteenth celebrations are a reminder to all that freedom is never free.”
Juneteenth commemorates the anniversary of the arrival of Union soldiers in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865. The soldiers carried with them the news that the Civil War was over and that slavery was abolished through President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation two-and-a-half years earlier.
The annual commemoration of this date, which became known as Juneteenth, quickly became a stabilizing as well as a motivating presence in the lives of the African-Americans who lived in Texas and faced the many uncertainties associated with their newly acquired freedom. The observance quickly spread from Texas to become recognized in black communities across the United States.
Juneteenth is celebrated in diverse ways, but over the years, education and self-improvement have been consistent themes at commemorative community gatherings and picnics. In 1980, Juneteenth was made an official holiday in Texas. According to the National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign, 25 states currently recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday and it has been recognized by President George W. Bush in special presidential messages.
Project 21 member Murdock “Doc” Gibbs, a Texas resident, said: “June 19, 1865 was a turning point for the black people of Texas. It was a recognition of the equality between them and their former white masters. We must continue as a people to shake off the modern slave masters that threaten our families, our communities and our future – the slave masters of drugs, illegitimacy, family breakdown, poor education and crime. We can use this important holiday to remind us that we are the masters of our own destiny and hold the keys to our own survival through the choices we make.”
Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or [email protected], or visit Project 21’s website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.