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IBLC reflects on importance of recognizing Juneteenth

Photo caption: Indiana Black Legislative Caucus

Recognized as a federal holiday in 2021, June 19th – Juneteenth – commemorates the day in 1865, two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, when enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, learned of their freedom.

State Rep. Earl Harris Jr., chair of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC), issued the following statement on Juneteenth regarding the importance of recognizing the Juneteenth holiday:

“Juneteenth commemorates a pivotal moment in not only Black history, but American history,” Harris said. “Juneteenth is important, because it reminds us of what we came through, what we have achieved, and the progress that still needs to be made.

“The last few legislative sessions of the Indiana General Assembly are a prime example of the importance of recognizing Juneteenth. Attempts to bar educators from teaching students about the history of slavery in America, passing through legislation censoring books in school libraries that are deemed to be ‘harmful to minors’ – which is just vague enough to possibly encompass books pertaining to racism and diversity.

“The simple truth is that Black history is American history. We cannot tell the full story of the United States without discussing the sin of slavery and the institutions long-lasting impacts on African Americans. Juneteenth is a solemn reminder that the story we’ve long been told – that enslaved African Americans were made free on January 1, 1863 – was not a universal experience for African Americans throughout the country.

“Juneteenth is also a reminder, however, to celebrate the many accomplishments and achievements of Black people throughout our nation’s history. From innovations in health and medicine to outstanding contributions to arts and culture, African Americans have helped shape this country from its founding. It’s critically important that we remember this, just as it’s important that we remember the long road to freedom African Americans have trod to get where we are today.

“There’s a lot more work to be done. However, I hope African American Hoosiers use this day to remember the trials faced and sacrifices made by those who came before us, the achievements and innovations African Americans have blessed the United States with and the endless opportunities that lay before us.”

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