Barack Obama Explains The Importance Of Juneteenth In Powerful Statement

by Kristine Cannon
Originally Published: 
Barack Obama bridge Juneteenth
Getty Images/Getty Images for EIF & XQ, Barack Obama/Instagram

‘Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory, or an acceptance of the way things are,’ Obama wrote

It’s considered the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the U.S., dating as far back as 1865; and yet, many weren’t aware of Juneteenth until this year. Juneteenth — or June 19 — marks the day Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas with news: The war had ended, and the enslaved were now free. Now, more than 150 years later, former President Barack Obama is just one of many prominent figures taking to social media to educate their followers on Juneteenth, which became a state holiday in Texas in 1980.

“On this day in 1865, more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after the end of the Civil War, the slaves of Galveston, Texas finally received word that they were free at last,” Obama wrote on Instagram today.

Obama paired the caption with a photo of his family marching on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where hundreds of protestors marched during the 1965 protest for voting rights. The same bridge that more than 100,000 people have petitioned to rename after Georgia Rep. John Lewis, instead. Lewis is a Democrat and civil rights leader who participated in said march.

“We don’t have to look far to see that racism and bigotry, hate, and intolerance, are still all too alive in our world,” Obama continued to write. “Just as the slaves of Galveston knew that emancipation was only the first step toward true freedom, just as those who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma knew their march was far from finished, or the protesters of today continue to fight for Black lives around the country — our work remains far from done. As long as people are treated differently based on nothing more than the color of their skin — we cannot honestly say that our country is living up to its highest ideals. ”

Obama’s Instagram post, which is a similar statement he published in 2015 while serving his second term as President, continues to say that awareness isn’t unpatriotic, rather it’s “patriotic to believe that we can make America better.”

“We’re strong enough to be self-critical,” he says. “We’re strong enough to look upon our imperfections and strive, together, to make this country we love more perfect.”

Obama also took to Twitter to share an op-ed published on the New York Times titled “Why Juneteenth Matters.”

“Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory, or an acceptance of the way things are. Instead, it’s a celebration of progress,” Obama says. “It’s an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible. So no matter our color or our creed, no matter where we come from or who we love, today is a day to find joy in the face of sorrow and to hold the ones we love a little closer. And tomorrow is a day to keep marching.”

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