EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – As Juneteenth receives overdue recognition on both the state and federal level, state Rep. LaToya Greenwood, D-East St. Louis, is encouraging residents to take a moment this weekend to reflect on the struggle for freedom that Black Americans endured and the challenges that remain today.
“Juneteenth is a somber time to remember the evil too many suffered under,” Greenwood said. “But also it serves as a reminder that we can improve and we can make this country a better place for everyone. The fight for freedom did not end in 1865, it continues each and every day and starts with all of us.”
On Wednesday, Greenwood joined Gov. J.B. Pritzker for the signing of House Bill 3922 to officially designate Juneteenth National Freedom Day as a state holiday. Juneteenth recognizes the announced ending of slavery by Union forces in Texas on June 19, 1865, years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation outlawed slavery in rebellious territories during the Civil War. Ratification of the 13th Amendment later that year would finally end slavery in all parts of the country, including areas not initially covered by Lincoln’s proclamation in 1863.
Federally, President Joe Biden also signed legislation Thursday to mark Juneteenth as a holiday. It is the first new national legal public holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was signed into law in 1983.
“While overlooked by many, Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States,” Greenwood said. “I’m hopeful that by becoming a recognized holiday, more people will take time to reflect on what the day means and how it still impacts today.”