Juneteenth should be celebrated everywhere

Published 6:53 am Friday, June 19, 2020

On this day 154 years ago, word reached Galveston, Texas, of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, officially freeing the last slaves held in the United States.

It is an annual designation that has regional pockets of acknowledgment but which sadly remains unknown to most Americans.

The truth is, there are any number of dates that could have been chosen to mark this milestone.

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President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862, and it went into effect on Jan. 1, 1863.

News traveled slowly those days, especially news in the war-torn South.

That fateful day in Texas — June 19, 1865 — came two and a half years after the proclamation freed the slaves, and nearly two months after President Lincoln’s assassination.

The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution became law on Dec. 18, 1865, after it was ratified by three-quarters of the current states, including Virginia on Feb. 9 of that year.

Mississippi did not formally ratify the amendment until 1995.

Both the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment fell short of guaranteeing equal treatment for African Americans, allowing southern states to pass harsh Jim Crow laws well into the 20th century.

Our country is still addressing the inequities those laws helped foment.

Still, the spirit of Juneteenth remains alive in present times.

In fact, the city of Lanett just issued a proclamation declaring Friday, June 19 as a city holiday.

Juneteenth is a date to be celebrated not just by African-Americans, but by all Americans.

It marks a moment of seismic change in our history when our country became better, stronger and more honorable.