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 on Juneteenth, which is celebrated and recognized as a federal holiday, also known as Freedom Day, on Monday, June 19, 2023.
“This year, we commemorate the158th Juneteenth, which celebrates the liberation of the last remaining enslaved Black Americans at the end of the Civil War. 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 to 250,000 still-enslaved Texans that all slaves were free. Though President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the final emancipation of African American slaves was not reached until two years later, with the end of the Civil War and then ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
“African American communities have celebrated Juneteenth as Emancipation Day as far back as 1886 in Texas, but it was not until June 2021 that Congress voted to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, which President Biden signed into law.
“On a holiday that celebrates our fundamental right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans, it is important to remember that those rights have not and are not always applied equally to every American. Redlining, health disparities, police brutality and other areas of disenfranchisement are relics of the nation’s original sin and the Jim Crow laws that followed. These inequalities shape the African American experience today. Celebrating Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, means not only celebrating victory, but also understanding and reconciling with hard truths.
“This Freedom Day comes at a time when there has been a targeted attack on facts and truth. Censoring textbooks, banning conversations about race and gender, and misrepresenting the truth systematically sanitizes our nation’s history. As a society, we must stand together to resist hiding from the darkest part of our past. Confronting a difficult past and having uncomfortable conversations allow us to better address issues of inequality, head-on, so we can move forward creating a culture of inclusion and belonging.
“As we join the country in recognizing the importance of this anniversary, we should also celebrate how far we have come. In my home state of Maryland, for the first time ever, the first Black Governor, first Black Attorney General and first Black Speaker of the House of Delegates are all serving at once. The election of Vice President Kamala Harris and appointment of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson show that the country, more broadly, wants to see the diversity of America reflected at the highest levels of government. Embracing diversity is in the best interest of the country. It is how we get landmark legislation like the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and the Historic Executive Order to Advance Effective, Accountable Policing and Strengthen Public Safety.
“My faith teaches that we all have a responsibility to make the world a better place. That can only be done through civility, understanding and respect for each other. As we come together to participate in a long-standing tradition of celebrating freedom, let’s also celebrate knowledge, hope and continue to work toward a more perfect union and a better future for every American.”