Today, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, a Senior Chief Deputy Whip, released the following statement recognizing Juneteenth, our country’s second Independence Day:

“Today we honor the end of slavery in the United States and the day in 1865 when news of the Emancipation Proclamation – issued by President Lincoln two and a half years earlier – finally reached the last remaining slaves in Texas. The year following, freedmen in Texas organized the first annual celebration of “Jubilee Day” on June 19. Now known as Juneteenth, it is the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery and therefore a date that is perhaps the most significant event in American history. It is not a date that commemorates a document, a war, a birthday, or a national tragedy, but a date on which a fundamental promise of America slowly began to come to fruition: equality, liberty, and freedom for all.

“One hundred and fifty-five years later, we are still pursuing that American promise. Though Juneteenth celebrates a belated liberation for Black people in the United States, Black Americans are not yet truly free. Our nation continues to enslave Black Americans in a different way: caging them in prisons, withholding property, education, health care, and opportunity, killing them with state sanctioned violence, stealing their culture, and attempting to silence their voices.

“Today, I hope we have finally reached a point of reckoning to address this systemic racism —a point where we can fully assess and address this deeply rooted history of Black oppression and move forward together, as a truly free nation.

“My hope for this Juneteenth—and all those that will follow—is that our country will take the time to learn, engage in racial justice activities, and deeply reflect on the hard work it will take for us to come together and reach true freedom for all. Moving forward, I will work to enshrine this day as a paid, federal holiday and a national day of action. While freedom has been delayed for Black Americans, it can no longer be deferred. As a Member of Congress, I will not stop fighting until this American promise is fully realized by all.”