SHEILA JACKSON LEE
18th District, Texas
Congress of the United States
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
June 18, 2001
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20540
Dear President Bush:
I am writing to urge you to sign a proclamation of enormous importance for the African-American community in America.
The proclamation concerns Juneteenth Independence Day, the 19th day of June. America declared its freedom to the world on July 4th, 1776. However, this freedom did not include slaves or their descendants. It would take the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, and then June 19th, 1865 to ensure freedom for slaves in confederate states. On this date in 1863, Union Major General Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 to the slave population in Galveston, TX. This marks the 19th of June as America's 2nd Independence Day and the oldest African American celebration of emancipation.
The "19th of June," or "Juneteenth" is the freedom forerunner to the 13th Amendment, which implemented freedom for all slaves in the United States. In 1997, the 105th Congress of the United States passed S.J. Res. 11 and H.J. Res 56, officially recognizing Juneteenth Independence Day. A presidential proclamation is all that is required for Juneteenth Independence Day to be recognized as a National Holiday in the United States.
Today, millions of Americans of all races, creeds, religious and ethnic backgrounds celebrate Juneteenth. This due in large part to the hard work and dedication of organizations like the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, the National Juneteenth Christian Leadership Council, and Juneteenth America, Inc.
Juneteenth is now a state holiday in Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Delaware, Idaho and Alaska. Illinois and Vermont have passed legislative resolutions recognizing Juneteenth as National Emancipation Day for African Americans. Other states including Iowa, Oregon, Louisiana, Mississippi, California, South Carolina, New Jersey, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New York, Wisconsin and Maryland are considering similar state holiday legislation to commemorate Juneteenth Independence Day.
As Juneteenth celebrations continue to spread, so does a greater appreciation of African-American history. We must revive and preserve Juneteenth not only as the end of a painful chapter in American history, but also as a reminder of the importance of preserving the lines of communication between the powerful and the powerless in our society.
Mr. President, I respectfully urge you to issue a proclamation proclaiming Juneteenth Independence Day as a National Holiday. The "19th of June" is an important day for all Americans to observe. "Until all are free, none are free" is an oft-repeated maxim that highlights the manner of the end of slavery in the 'United Sates. I will stand ready to work with you toward the goal of achieving greater harmony and racial reconciliation, Mr. President. We can further this goal by making sure that all are remembered.
Sheila Jackson Lee
Member of Congress
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