AUGUSTA – Today marks the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers entered Galveston, Texas, with the order proclaiming that enslaved people in Texas were free. This event took place more than two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, formally freeing all enslaved people in the United States, and two months after the end of the American Civil War.
To honor this important but often forgotten date in our country’s history, Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash released the following statement:
“Juneteenth marks a pivotal moment in our country’s complicated history and ugly legacy of slavery. It represents the end of laws sanctioning the abhorrent practice of enslaving other human beings in this country but not the end of racial violence, grotesque discrimination or the rampant inequality in our laws, policies, education, health care and so much more. We like to think we’ve come a long way as a nation, and that this unconscionable stain on our history is part of a distant past. However, as both recent high-profile examples of racial violence and the reality our Black neighbors experience daily have shown, we have a long way to go.
“In 2011, I cosponsored legislation to establish Juneteenth Independence Day as our state came to terms with our own shameful heritage on Malaga Island. Even then, I must admit, I did not fully understand the gravity of this holiday. I just knew it was the right thing to do in order to atone for our sins. Today, it’s an ever-present reminder that words on paper stating that you are equal and free mean nothing if they are not enforced or protected by people in power.
“While today is a day of celebration, I hope it is also a day of reckoning for people of power and privilege, not unlike myself. We’ve watched what’s unfolded across the country in horror, but we can’t ignore what’s happening within our own state and our own communities. As Senate President, I’m committed to doing my part to listen and to learn from my colleagues of color and community leaders about how we can dismantle systemic oppression in the state in Maine.”