Home McClellan on Juneteenth: Blacks ‘must remain vigilant to extreme efforts to strip away’ freedoms
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McClellan on Juneteenth: Blacks ‘must remain vigilant to extreme efforts to strip away’ freedoms

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Today is the fourth federally recognized Juneteenth Celebration in the United States.

On June 19, 1865, the American Civil War was over but news finally reached slaves in Galveston, Texas. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had freed them two years earlier.

“President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, declaring ‘all persons held as slaves within any state or designated part of a state, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.’ Despite this proclamation, slavery and injustice persisted throughout the Confederacy and in the slaveholding states in the Union. Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, when enslaved Americans in Galveston, Texas, finally received word of their freedom,” Congresswoman Jennifer McClellan, who represents Virginia’s District 4, said.

Today’s celebration reminds Americans that emancipation was not a moment in American history, McClellan said.

“It was a movement that began in 1619, when the first recorded Africans arrived on the shores of Virginia, and continued through 1865. Emancipation consisted of acts of rebellion, resistance, and self-liberation that culminated with the 13th Amendment’s ratification in December 1865; however, the fight for freedom and equality under the law did not end there. Ratification of the 14th and 15th Amendments during Reconstruction attempted to extend to formerly enslaved Black Americans the promises of our nation’s founding documents.”

Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom and acknowledgment of American transgressions, according to McClellan. Today also brings the opportunity to “recommit to the work necessary to ensure the United States lives up to its promise of ‘Liberty and Justice for All.’ Throughout history, when Black Americans gained social, economic, and political power, they were met with a backlash that sought to undermine that progress that included violence, propaganda, and voter suppression: from Reconstruction to Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement to the exploitative ‘Southern Strategy,’ and the election of President Barack Obama to the election of Donald Trump and a blatant rise in white supremacy.”

McClellan was among the votes in 2020 in favor of making Juneteenth a state holiday.

“Now as we observe the fourth federally recognized Juneteenth and celebrate the strides we have made, we must remain vigilant to extreme efforts to strip away our freedoms and personal liberties, including ongoing attacks on voting rights laws and reproductive freedom. As the first Black woman to represent Virginia in Congress, I will continue working to ensure every American has equal protection under the law, and that we eradicate the lingering impacts of over 300 years of slavery and Jim Crow. The struggle for freedom continues.”

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.