WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) issued the following statement recognizing Tuesday, June 19, 2018 as Juneteenth. Each year, we commemorate this day as the date on which slavery legally came to an end across the entire United States. Senator Cardin is a cosponsor of S.Res. 547, which was approved unanimously by the Senate and recognizes the significance of Juneteenth in American history.
“One hundred and fifty-three years ago, Union soldiers reached the final outposts of the Southwest with news for the people of Galveston, Texas, that the Civil War had concluded and slaves who remained captive were now free. More than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, its words finally would have the opportunity to become reality. On this day, Union Army General Gordon Granger issued a declaration that the fundamental ideologies of justice, liberty and equal citizenship under the Constitution could now take a step forward for the remaining slaves. For this reason, we as a nation remember Juneteenth and celebrate the contributions African-Americans have made to our country and our communities.
“Today we gather to recognize, observe and celebrate the incredible sacrifices that so many African-Americans have made in ending slavery. It is the sheer determination to overcome hardships of those like Marylanders Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman that we honor today. We must also take a moment to remember that Juneteenth is a significant reminder that we Americans must always be eager to do our part in ensuring that all citizens – regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual identification – are all equal parties to the immeasurable opportunities our nation has to offer.
“Unfortunately, racism, bigotry, prejudice, discrimination, hate and intolerance are still too prevalent in our country today. Just as the people and the slaves of Galveston saw that emancipation was the initial step to true freedom, just as Harriet Tubman knew her missions to rescue slaves were far from concluded, our work as a nation remains incomplete. For as long as people can still harm others due to the color of their skin – and so long as it is possible for public figures to spew hateful rhetoric – we cannot say truthfully that our nation is upholding and living up to the aspirations of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass.
“As we gather together to celebrate the remarkable progress our country has made, we still have many miles to walk in our mission to live up to the ideals of this nation. On this Juneteenth, we celebrate the progress and affirm that even though our history has painful moments, America can improve.
“Juneteenth should serve as a reminder that there are still significant wrongs in our country that must be resisted and corrected. There is work that must be continued to safeguard the potential of all Americans. On the 153rd commemoration of Juneteenth, let us use the lessons of the past and commit to a brighter future.”