Landrieu Honors Juneteenth

June 21, 2010

Landrieu co-sponsors resolution recognizing significance of Juneteenth Independence Day.

(Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., this week co-sponsored a Senate resolution commemorating Juneteenth Independence Day, which is celebrated on June 19th each year. The resolution recognizes the day in 1865 when enslaved African Americans were granted freedom.

“Juneteenth is one of the most significant days in American history,” said Sen. Landrieu. “It is hard for us living in a day and age when important news makes it half-way around the world in an instant to imagine a time when it took more than two years for the news of emancipation to make it to many of those waiting to be freed from slavery. This day of African-American freedom is a time where we commemorate the end of the ugliest chapter in our country’s history, celebrate our progress on racial equality and look ahead to a future where our differences are entirely eclipsed by our shared values and common purpose.”

It took more than two years for the news of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to reach some of the southwestern states. It was June 19, 1865 when Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas with the news that all slaves had been granted their freedom and from then forward Juneteenth Independence Day has been celebrated as the anniversary of African-American freedom.

Sen. Landrieu is a longtime advocate of legislation and other measures on behalf of the African American community. In 2007, she reintroduced the Servitude and Emancipation Archival Research Clearing House (SEARCH) Act, which she first introduced in 2004. The legislation establishes a national database within the National Archives and Records Administration to house genealogical documents that, because of slavery and segregation, are almost impossible to find in common registers and census records. Sen. Landrieu also cosponsored the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act in 2007, which gives the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI the ability to reopen unsolved Civil Rights-era murder cases.

Also in 2007, Sen. Landrieu and then Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., together introduced a bill to change the name of the main hall in the Capitol Visitors Center (CVC) from the “Great Hall,” a name shared by the main hall of the Library of Congress, to “Emancipation Hall.” The bill was subsequently signed into law.

This month also marks the fifth anniversary of a Landrieu-led resolution in which the Senate apologized to lynching victims and their families for the Senate’s failure to enact federal anti-lynching legislation during the first part of the 20th century. Because of the Senate’s inability to pass anti-lynching laws, the federal government was left powerless to intervene and protect Americans from mob violence. The Senate apology passed on June 13, 2005.

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