This week, President Joe Biden enacted a law declaring June 19 as a federal holiday to mark Juneteenth.
On June 19, 1865, more than two months after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his forces on April 9, Union Gen. Gordon Granger informed enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, that they were free. Although President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier, but Juneteenth represents the official end of slavery in the U.S.
In Galveston, Granger delivered General Order No. 3, which said: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, whose district includes the Highlands, said in a statement this week:
As we celebrate freedom on Juneteenth, let us remember the generations lost to the horrific institution of slavery. It has been 156 years since U.S. General Gordon Granger arrived in Texas to share the news that all enslaved Americans were freed from captivity, yet we still have work to do to ensure this country honors its fundamental promise of democracy for every American.
In Beacon, Mayor Lee Kyriacou issued a proclamation that reads:
WHEREAS, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862 declaring that all persons held as slaves shall be “forever free”; and
WHEREAS, many freed African Americans were subsequently held captive as slaves for two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1, 1863; and
WHEREAS, on June 19, 1865, Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery in this remote community; and
WHEREAS, Major General Granger presented General Order Number 3 to the people of Galveston, which read: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves and the connection heretofore existing between them, becomes that between employer and hired labor;” and
WHEREAS, President Joseph Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act on June 17, 2021 establishing June 19th as a federal holiday; and
WHEREAS, in addition to a celebration of freedom, Juneteenth also promotes awareness of past and continuing racial inequality and bias in the United States and supports efforts to realize equality more than a century and a half after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that I, Mayor Lee Kyriacou, do hereby proclaim June 19, 2021 to be Juneteenth in the City of Beacon, and I invite our community to reflect on ways we can support one another and strive towards greater equality and a “more perfect Union.”