For Release: June 16, 2000
Contact: David Almasi at 202/543-4110 x106 or [email protected]
As "Juneteenth," the oldest celebration of the end of slavery in America, is observed nationally on June 19, members of the African-American leadership network Project 21 ask African-Americans everywhere to take time to celebrate the progress they have made and independence they have achieved. New statistics compiled by Project 21 show tremendous gains made by the black community that merit recognition.
Juneteenth marks the day - June 19, 1865 - that Union soldiers brought word of the end of the Civil War and emancipation of slavery to Texas. As the newly-freed African-Americans encountered uncertainty away from the plantations, they viewed this anniversary as a stabilizing, motivating presence in their lives.
Recognition and celebration of Juneteenth has been on the rise since the civil rights era. In 1980, Texas made Juneteenth an official state holiday. Legislators in Maryland are also considering making the day a state holiday.
Today, the celebration of Juneteenth goes beyond the commemoration of African-American freedom to an emphasis on black education and achievement. And, with respect to such endeavors, today's African-American community has much to celebrate.
In Black America 2000: Indicators of African-American Progress, a report soon to be published by Project 21, statistical evidence shows that African-Americans have made substantial gains in recent decades. Black high school graduation rates have risen to the point where they are now statistically equal to those of whites. In addition, since 1960, the percentage of the African-American population that has completed college has more than quadrupled.
This increased African-American educational attainment has provided the foundation for higher salaries and higher employment rates for black Americans. Between just 1985 and 1997, for example, the median African-American weekly salary rose by over 44 percent. The economic independence this progress has given the African-American community provides the means to continue to work towards absolute racial equality.
Although absolute racial equality does not yet exist in the United States, celebrations like Juneteenth show how far hard-working black Americans have come during the last several decades. It also shows how such goals are attainable through continued determination and freedom.
"Juneteenth is the continuation of America's liberation movement which started with the first shot of the Revolutionary War and ended with Juneteenth," said Project 21 member Morning Sunday Hettleman, who is organizing a Juneteenth observance in Baltimore, Maryland.
Project 21 has been a leading voice of the African-American
community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi
at (202) 543-4110 x106 or [email protected],
or visit Project 21's website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.