WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly, today issued the following statement marking Juneteenth 2022, which will be celebrated on Sunday, June 19 and recognized as a federal holiday on Monday, June 20.
“This Sunday, we commemorate the 157th Juneteenth – a portmanteau of June and the nineteenth – which celebrates the liberation of the last remaining enslaved Black Americans at the end of the Civil War. This is our newest federal holiday – which we will observe on Monday – but African American communities have celebrated Juneteenth as Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, or Black Independence Day as far back as 1886 in Texas.
“On this date in 1865, U.S. Army Major General Gordon Granger arrived at a confederate outpost in Galveston, Texas, where he delivered the news of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to 250,000 still-enslaved Texans. Many United States Colored Troops (USCT), who fought for freedom and to preserve the Union, accompanied Granger. Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which granted Black Americans their freedom, two years earlier. Robert E. Lee had surrendered to U.S. Army Lt. General Ulysses Grant two months earlier at Appomattox.
“In my home State of Maryland, abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman paved the way for future civil rights activists by risking their lives to help bring enslaved people to freedom. Their work has had a profound impact on our community, and on Maryland’s rich cultural history.
“African American history is American history. We all must learn the lessons of Juneteenth and understand how our lives have been changed because of it. We cannot celebrate the freedoms brought forth on Juneteenth without acknowledging there was slavery in the United States of America. Slavery is a part of American history. The Constitution originally protected slavery through the fugitive slave clause and three-fifths clause.
“We cannot and should not hide from these facts or try to erase them from our history books or suppress them in our classrooms.
“In Maryland, we often look to the work of Justice Thurgood Marshall, who spent his life fighting for the rights of Black Americans and trying to reverse systemic discrimination. Marshall, arguing before the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, and later serving as the first African American Associate Justice on the Court, set a precedent for future generations of Black men and women that even the highest honors are within their reach. The Senate recently confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson to be the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.
“While Thurgood Marshall was an inspiration, his work of reversing systemic racism is far from complete.
“It is our responsibility as a Nation to continue the work Justice Marshall and activists like him started. Though we have made progress, the fight for racial justice will never be complete until we have achieved equitable treatment for people of all races and can truly guarantee equality of opportunity. The pursuit of racial justice will ensure that we live up to our Nation’s promise of equality for all people, regardless of the color of their skin.
“Countering systemic racism and advancing racial justice should be a daily occurrence. We must learn from our past, actively challenge our own prejudices, and take conscious steps to dismantle the racist structures embedded in our society.
“On President Biden’s first day in office, he signed an Executive Order entitled ‘Advancing Racial Equity and Support from Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.’ The President directed federal agencies to assess how their programs and policies might be perpetuating systemic barriers to opportunity, and to propose Equity Action Plans that contain specific agency commitments to redress inequities and promote equitable outcomes in communities.
“The Biden-Harris administration has already taken numerous steps to expand opportunities for African Americans. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law permanently reauthorizes the Minority Business Development Agency for the first time, and enhances its authority. The administration has stepped up its efforts to combat racial discrimination in the housing market, and to help African American get fair treatment when it comes to staying in their homes and on their farms, and receiving disaster assistance after tragedy strikes.
“In particular, as the pandemic exacerbated pre-existing racial disparities, the administration took strong steps to improve outcomes for African Americans with respect to education, health care, and transportation.
“As we commemorate this historic holiday, I encourage all Americans to reflect on the many lessons of the story of Juneteenth and commit ourselves to the pursuit of racial justice and reconciliation. If we do that, individually and collectively, Juneteenth truly will become a Jubilee.”