SEATTLE, WA – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) released the following statement in honor of Juneteenth after speaking at the Northwest African American Museum’s (NAAM) Juneteenth Jamboree.

“On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger led Union soldiers led into Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War had ended and that the people held in slavery there were free – but it was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation legally abolishing slavery in the United States.

“156 years later, Congress has recognized the long-standing tradition among Black Americans to memorialize the end of slavery by establishing Juneteenth National Independence Day as a federal holiday. This day marks one of the most important moments in our country's history. It was the starting point on a path to equal justice under the law and equitable opportunity for all in America, that continues even today.

“This Juneteenth arrives at a time when the national conversation on police brutality, criminal justice, health care and social services access, infrastructure investment, and good governance acknowledges the reality of systemic racism, which disproportionately places the heaviest burdens and the harshest penalties on Black people. Change is long overdue. Commemoration alone is not enough to rid the country of the existing legacies of slavery especially in light of unprecedented attacks on the right to vote and recognition of our country’s history of slavery in state legislatures across the country.

“I am proud and grateful to join in celebrating Juneteenth with my friend LaNesha DeBardelaben, the Northwest African American Museum, Rec'N The Streets, and many others on a day that symbolizes the beginning of freedom for so many Black Americans. I recommit to the work still ahead of us – I remain committed to doing everything in my power to fight hate and racism and I will not stop until every American has equal opportunities to succeed."