On Jan. 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which freed enslaved persons in the rebel states. Nearly 2½ years later, on June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and 1,800 federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas. Gen. Granger read the Proclamation to the last enslaved persons in the areas still rebelling against the United States on that day, confirming their freedom nearly two months after the end of the Civil War. All enslaved people were officially freed when the 13th amendment was passed in December 1865.
Gov. Cuomo has indicated that he will push for legislation to establish Juneteenth as an official state holiday next year and thereafter. As we witness the removal of many of the statues and emblems that mark the scars of slavery, Le Moyne joins with the state and others in establishing new, more permanent testaments to freedom and justice.
And, of course, we recognize that issuing a proclamation is a static act. Declaring that enslaved persons were free did not make it so. Realizing the promise of freedom is an ongoing commitment; proclaiming freedom - with all the struggle that accompanies it - is much harder than simply marking a date on a calendar. As President LeMura made clear in her message to our community earlier this week, Le Moyne is committed to action, committed to proclaiming that Black Lives Matter, and committed to making the College an anti-racist institution.
In recognition of Juneteenth, a day of jubilee, please celebrate freedom in all its forms. Please also recognize that we have much work to do as a nation and as a College to insure that Martin Luther King’s vision of the road ahead is accurate, “The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.” As we celebrate Juneteenth today, we are reminded that the arc doesn’t ever bend on its own. Let us redouble our efforts on the Heights and beyond to do all we can to bend that arc toward justice.
Joseph G. Marina, S.J.