Governor Signs Legislation Honoring African American History

Contact: Heidi Hansen 517-335-6397

June 17, 2005

State will celebrate Junteenth, Sojourner Truth Day

LANSING – Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today signed legislation honoring two important pieces of African American history.  Senate Bill 384 (PA 48) officially designates the third Saturday in June as Juneteenth National Freedom Day and November 26 as Sojourner Truth Day in Michigan.

“I am honored to officially declare Juneteenth National Freedom Day and Sojourner Truth Day in Michigan,” said Granholm. “These days will call us each year to celebrate freedom and to honor the heroic men and women who fought to ensure that the principles of liberty and equality apply to everyone.”

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in America.  The first festivities, held 140 years ago in Galveston, Texas, were a spontaneous celebration of the news that Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, giving slaves their freedom.  The news didn’t reach Texas until more than two years after Lincoln’s actions, but the delay didn’t dampen the festivities.  Michigan is the 18th state to officially recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday.  Celebrations are planned in communities across Michigan this weekend.

“Juneteenth is a celebration of African American history and culture,” said Senator Martha G. Scott who sponsored the legislation. “It is important that we promote understanding, freedom and a strong sense of community.”    
 
Sojourner Truth was born a slave in the late 18th century.  After escaping the bonds of slavery, Truth became a tireless advocate for freedom and equality, once meeting with President Lincoln in her quest for economic opportunities for newly-freed slaves.  Truth settled in Battle Creek in 1858 where she began a job placement program to match former slaves with job openings in the area.
 
“Sojourner Truth is a hero in my community, and this recognition is long overdue,” said Senator Mark Schauer, who has long advocated for a day honoring the legendary woman.  “Because of this new law, each November 26 will be set aside for us to remember Sojourner Truth’s courage and eloquence on behalf of the rights and dignity of all people.”