WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) issued the following statement recognizing Monday, June 19, 2017 as Juneteenth. This year, Juneteenth commemorates the 152nd anniversary of the date on which slavery legally ended in the United States.
“Though President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the final emancipation of African American slaves was not reached until the end of the Civil War two years later. It was only then that Major General Gordon Granger declared from a balcony in Galveston, Texas, the unequivocal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for remaining slaves. We remember and celebrate that day as Juneteenth, and today I am proud to join the country in recognizing the importance of this anniversary.
“The state of Maryland is the proud home of abolitionists like Fredrick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, whose toil and sacrifices we honor today, and every day. Born in 1818, Douglass was a persistent force for freedom and equality throughout his life, his writings and speeches becoming legendary in American history. His three autobiographies constitute critical accounts of racial injustice, and he is now regarded as one of the most renowned abolitionist leaders of the movement. After Tubman escaped slavery in 1849, she aided hundreds of fleeing slaves – at risk to her own life – through the perilous journey of the Underground Railroad. Tubman will soon be featured on the $20 bill to commemorate her courage and selfless commitment to others’ freedom.
“Douglass and Tubman both exemplify the best of America. Their resilience in the face of unfettered and state-sponsored bigotry reminds us just how profound our nation’s tangled history of racial injustice has been. And Juneteenth reminds us that we must carry their torch.
“There is still immense progress needed to eradicate systemic discrimination and to ensure all Americans are treated fairly and equally. Freedom has never been free, nor has it ever come easily. Americans ought to reflect on that – not just on Juneteenth, but every day – and commit to working together for a brighter, more just future.”