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Culture

Juneteenth Takes on New Prominence

"This joyous event honors the day ... marking the end of slavery in the United States."

Nate Jackson · Jun. 19, 2020

Juneteenth marks the date in 1865, June 19th, when the last slaves of the Confederacy — in Texas — received word that they were free. It represents the advance of the principles laid out 89 years earlier in the Declaration of Independence: “All men are created equal…” It is not a newly recognized day of significance, given that 47 states observe it as a holiday, though it remained largely unknown until taking on new prominence in today’s climate of, er, racial reconciliation.

In fact, as we said last week, “What are the odds that congressional Democrats use this year to push for it to be a federal holiday?” Well, Kamala Harris and a trio of other Democrats introduced legislation to do just that. Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas advanced a similar bill.

Frankly, it’s very appropriate as GOP legislation, and Republicans ought to be making outreach efforts in the black community.

As Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement, “Today, we join cities and communities across our country to celebrate Juneteenth. This joyous event honors the day when news of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation finally made it to those enslaved Americans in Galveston, TX, marking the end of slavery in the United States. The Republican Party will always proudly be connected to Juneteenth because we have always been the party of freedom and opportunity thanks to President Lincoln and now President Trump.”

At a time when division is the prevailing sentiment, McDaniel also struck exactly the unifying tone that the country needs: “As we pray for healing and unity during this present time of unrest, let each of us also dedicate ourselves to doing our part to create a ‘more perfect union,’ and let Juneteenth serve as a source of inspiration of what we can achieve when we appeal to the better angels of our nature and unite in the fight for freedom, justice and opportunities for every American.”

We’re not naive enough to think that the “better angels” are always going to prevail, especially when there’s political gain in fomenting division. But what if all Americans of every race could celebrate Liberty together? If that’s the real aspiration for Juneteenth, it’ll be a day worth commemorating.

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