A message from Joi Harris, Senior Vice President, Major Enterprise Projects
This Friday, communities across our nation will observe one of America’s most significant celebrations of freedom: Juneteenth.
Celebrated on June 19, Juneteenth is the commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth dates back to 1865, when Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War had ended. General Granger informed the enslaved that they were now free and marked the occasion by reading President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
While the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863, slavery was not officially over until the conclusion of the Civil War and the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which both happened in 1865.
Historically, Juneteenth has served as a time of appreciation and reflection. The occasion honors the contributions of African Americans, especially when rights and liberties codified by law were denied to them. The occasion also provides tribute to those who gallantly fought to make our nation a more fair and equitable place for every citizen regardless of race.
This year, Juneteenth has special significance because of recent events that poignantly reminded us that injustice still exists. Ongoing protests over the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, as well as inequities against African Americans more broadly, have united and inspired communities across the country. The fight for racial justice is ongoing and each of us can play a role in achieving a positive outcome.
We can do that by commemorating Juneteenth as a time to reaffirm our commitment to the work that remains to be done to achieve a society that is devoid of prejudice and inequality. A good way to start is by denouncing all forms of racism and injustice. Another way to make an impact is by taking time to understand and support one another.
Such actions honor the spirit of Juneteenth and support steering our nation toward sustainable change that reflects the full extension of our nation’s founding principles of equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all – not just in thought, but more importantly, in action.