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Benson: Juneteenth is an opportunity to recommit to racial equity

As Juneteenth became a national holiday this week, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson reflected on the historic moment and the opportunity it provides to advance racial justice in our state and nation.

"Juneteenth celebrates the freedom of Black Americans and the dignity of all Americans by marking the date our country ended a horrific, inhumane chapter in our history," said Benson. "As Secretary of State, I remain committed to increasing racial equity and access in our public services, our elections and our democracy to build a more just society for all."

On June 19, 1865, over two years after President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation marked a formal end to slavery in the United States, Union troops finally arrived in Galveston, Texas, bringing with them the news that the Civil War had ended and informing the last enslaved Black Americans that they were free. Since then, Juneteenth has been observed by African American communities across the nation, celebrating the end of slavery in the United States and honoring the struggle for freedom of African Americans.

"We at the Michigan Department of State continue the community-building work that has been carried out by Black Americans since they became liberated," said Assistant Secretary of State Heaster Wheeler. "Just as the freed slaves built businesses, churches, educational institutions and families, our department provides the critical services, credentials and means of democratic empowerment so that all Michiganders can realize our nation's promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act on Thursday, establishing June 19 as a federal holiday. Governor Whitmer signed a proclamation today declaring June 19 as Juneteenth Celebration Day in Michigan.


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