Juneteenth: 10 Powerful Quotes To Remember On Freedom Day


June 19, 2017

Photo credit: Grace Murray Stephenson/ Austin History Center, Pictured: A Juneteenth celebration at Eastwoods Park in Austin, Texas (1900).  

Today we celebrate the 153rd anniversary of Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the last enslaved African Americans in the United States being declared free. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, however, the news of freedom did not reach Texas until two and a half years later. It came by way of Major General Gordon Granger, who announced General Order No. 3 to the people of Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865. It read: 

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”


Photo credit: Grace Murray Stephenson via The Portal to Texas History, Pictured: an African American band on Emancipation Day, June 19, 1900

Since then, generations of African Americans have commemorated the day as Juneteenth (also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day) to celebrate the end of slavery in the United States. To date, 45 states have recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday. Here are 10 powerful quotes to remember on this day. 

1. “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.” –  Al Edwards, Texas Democratic Representative


2. “Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation.”- Coretta Scott King, human rights activist and leader 

3. “I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” – Frederick Douglass, a leader in the abolitionist movement 

4. “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,a  leading abolitionist and humanitarian


5. “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  

6. “Hold those things that tell your history and protect them. During slavery, who was able to read or write or keep anything? The ability to have somebody to tell your story to is so important. It says: ‘I was here. I may be sold tomorrow. But you know I was here.'”- Maya Angelou, literary icon and activist 

7. “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


8. “Now I’ve been free, I know what a dreadful condition slavery is. I have seen hundreds of escaped slaves, but I never saw one who was willing to go back and be a slave.” – Harriet Tubman, writer and civil rights activist 

9. “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.”- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights leader 

10. “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, renowned human rights activist 


Today and everyday, we honor the sacrifices of our ancestors and remain committed to the work ahead. 

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