Obama marks Juneteenth: 'A celebration of progress'

Obama marks Juneteenth: 'A celebration of progress'
© Greg Nash

Former President Obama marked Juneteenth on Friday, calling the annual June 19 holiday commemorating the abolishment of slavery a chance to take stock of the work still ahead.

“Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory, or an acceptance of the way things are. It's a celebration of progress,” Obama tweeted Friday.

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On June 19, 1865, Gen. Gordon Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation to former slaves in Galveston, Texas, the final state where it was read after first being issued by President Lincoln in 1863. 

Obama shared on opinion piece by The New York Times’s Jamelle Bouie on the history of the day, emancipation in the U.S. in general and modern commemorations. 

The former president observed Juneteenth yearly during his time in office with official proclamations from his administration. The day is also recognized by 47 states and the District of Columbia as a state holiday or observance.

His message this year comes as protests have broken out around the country over the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and other black Americans.

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Floyd died last month after a former Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest while he said he could not breathe. Arbery was shot and killed by white men in February while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood. And Taylor was shot in her Louisville, Ky., apartment in March after several police officers forcefully entered with a no-knock warrant while she was sleeping.

Bills to make Juneteenth a federal holiday have been introduced in the House and Senate.

President TrumpDonald TrumpNew Capitol Police chief to take over Friday Overnight Health Care: Biden officials says no change to masking guidance right now | Missouri Supreme Court rules in favor of Medicaid expansion | Mississippi's attorney general asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade Michael Wolff and the art of monetizing gossip MORE this week claimed that he made Juneteenth, “very famous," by originally scheduling a campaign rally for the day. 

“I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal in an interview. “It’s actually an important event, an important time. But nobody had ever heard of it.” 

Trump was widely criticized for scheduling the rally on June 19, in Tulsa, Okla., the site of one of America's worst race massacres 99 years ago. 

Trump postponed the rally to Saturday, saying that "many" of his African American friends and supporters reached out to him over the scheduling.