Lessons from Juneteenth
On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed Proclamation 95, which freed some 3.5 million enslaved persons in the Confederacy.
Although the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed two and half years earlier, news traveled slowly because its enforcement depended on the advance of Union troops. For those in Galveston Bay, Texas, freedom remained out of reach until June 19th, 1865, when 2,000 Union troops showed up with the executive decree. Over 250,000 individuals were freed that day, and the celebration that ensued became known as “Juneteenth” — America’s second independence day.
Today, African Americans recognize Juneteenth as a celebration of Black culture, and we’ve increasingly seen a push to adopt Juneteenth as a national holiday.
Juneteenth teaches us that the fight for true freedom in this country requires continual effort; it teaches us that change does not happen instantaneously. Importantly, it teaches us that without constant accountability and engagement from citizens, freedom will remain out of reach for many.
Over the last year — and in the decades prior — we’ve seen the fight for freedom and enfranchisement continue, as lawmakers have continually attempted (and succeeded) to impose barriers on the right to vote. This year alone, legislators across the country have introduced 361 bills with restrictive provisions in 47 states.
Voting has always been and will always be an essential part of citizenship in our Republic.
Voting has always been and will always be an essential part of citizenship in our Republic. It’s how we, as citizens, ensure that our voices are heard, and ensure that our nation lives up to its promises of freedom for all.
In the spirit of Juneteenth, we must never forget to keep up this fight for true freedom; the work is not done. We have not arrived at our destination, and we will not without continual engagement from our citizens to look out for one another and protect the values of our democracy.