More than 150 years ago, U.S. Major General Gordon Granger and his unit of 2,000 Union soldiers embarked on a mission to deliver news of the Civil Wars end and a reunited nation. They arrived at their destination in Galveston, Texas on June 19th, 1865 and Maj. Gen. Granger announced the good news to the town: The United States of America was united once again, and the men, women, and children who had been enslaved in the South were now free.
This anniversary has come to be known as Juneteenth, and every year it serves as a reminder of our mission to build a freer and more equal society. It is also a fitting opportunity to celebrate the heritage, identity, and rich contributions African-Americans make to our communities, our state and our melting pot of a country.
In the 150 years since this historic announcement and the emancipation of slaves, our nation has continued to make great strides toward fulfilling the core principles of the Declaration of Independence that we are all created equal and born with the same inherent rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Recognition of Juneteenth has steadily grown over the years. Since Texas became the first state to recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday in 1980, 43 other states and Washington, D.C. have followed suit.
This year, I was again honored to introduce and pass a resolution formally declaring June 19th, 2015, as Juneteenth Independence Day. I also had the privilege of inviting Friendswood artist Ted Ellis to display his Juneteenth-inspired artwork in the halls of the U.S. Senate and was able to participate in this years ceremony at the Ashton Villa in Galveston.
As we take time today to remember an essential piece of our state and nations history, I pledge to continue working each and every day to ensure all Texans can live freer lives for generations to come.