"On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger of the Union Army announced in Galveston, Texas, that the Civil War was over and that all slaves were free--nearly three years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
While Juneteenth is often commemorated as the day slaves were finally freed, that narrative denies the crucial and prominent role played by slaves themselves in securing their liberation. As columnist Jamelle Bouie writes in today's New York Times, "Emancipation wasn't a gift bestowed on the slaves; it was something they took for themselves."
That essential lesson gives this day particular resonance, especially as calls for racial justice now echo around the world. That justice will not come because someone else charitably bestows it. It will come because we make it happen.
And make it happen we must. The stain of slavery lingers to this day in structural racism embedded in America's institutions. From the criminal justice system to housing to education, there is much more work to do. On this Juneteenth, let us recommit ourselves to the hard work of transforming ourselves, our City and our nation--to assure, as Dr. King envisioned more than a generation ago, the arc of history does indeed bend toward justice."