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Happy Juneteenth, Chicago!

By Kevin Robinson in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 19, 2007 3:00PM

2007_6_juneteenth.gifAlthough many here in Chicago don't celebrate today as a holiday, June 19 marks Juneteenth, a day commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery Texas, and the end of slavery in the US. On June 19, 1865, 2,000 Union troops arrived on Galveston Island to take possession of the Texas and enforce the emancipation proclamation, more than two years after it took effect. Recognized in 14 states (including Texas) as an official holiday, it is not always considered a "legal holiday", meaning that state business continues unabated. Officially it's a state holiday in Texas (although really just a "partial staffing day" there - meaning that government offices aren't actually closed).

In many way, today marks a day of more than just memory: for many it is a day of personal and spiritual growth, a day of national reflection and local focus. 142 years after the end of the Civil War, and 43 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, we have come far as a society. Equal rights and protection under the law are guaranteed, and generally people in the US have the freedom to be what they choose. Notions of racism and discrimination have become, at least institutionally, shameful, although in many parts of the nation (including here in Chicago) they continue to thrive behind closed doors.

As we look forward on another year of struggle and hopefully progress, we hope that today will remind us of where we have come from, and that all of our tomorrows will carry forth with notions of liberty and equality. Without the basic goodness of mankind, and the inherent hope of our forefathers, what do we leave for future generations?

Image via Ernest Berry