Today marks the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. The proclamation was declared by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1st, 1863, but the news did not reach Texas until two-and-a-half years later. Since then, generations have celebrated the day as Juneteenth and forty-five states recognize it as a state holiday.
As we remember this historic day in United States history, below are ten powerful quotes by central figures about the ugly history of slavery and this holiday’s meaning.
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1. “I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” – Frederick Douglas.
2. “I had reasoned this out in my mind; there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty, or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other; for no man should take me alive; I should fight for my liberty as long as my strength lasted, and when the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me.” – Harriet Tubman.
3. “We’re in denial of the African holocaust. Most times, people don’t want to talk about it. One is often restless or termed a racist just for having compassion for the African experience, for speaking truth to the trans-Atlantic and Arab slave trades, for speaking truth to the significant omission of our history. We don’t want to sit down and listen to these things, or to discuss them. But we have to.” – Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X.
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4. “If the cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. Because the goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned tho’ we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
5. “Anytime anyone is enslaved, or in any way deprived of his liberty, if that person is a human being, as far as I am concerned he is justified to resort to whatever methods necessary to bring about his liberty again.” – Malcolm X.
6. “My people have a country of their own to go to if they choose… Africa… but, this America belongs to them just as much as it does to any of the white race… in some ways even more so, because they gave the sweat of their brow and their blood in slavery so that many parts of America could become prosperous and recognized in the world.” – Josephine Baker, legendary entertainer and activist.
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7. “Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” – Abraham Lincoln.
8. “Where annual elections end where slavery begins.” – John Quincy Adams.
9. “…the 19th of June wasn’t the exact day the Negro was freed. But that’s the day they told them that they was free… And my daddy told me that they whooped and hollered and bored holes in trees with augers and stopped it up with [gun] powder and light and that would be their blast for the celebration.” – Haye Turner, former slave.
10. “Every year we must remind successive generations that this event triggered a series of events that one by one defines the challenges and responsibilities of successive generations. That’s why we need this holiday.” – Texas Rep. Al Edwards.
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