Today we celebrate Juneteenth and Father’s Day, two distinct, important holidays that hold a special place in our lives. Both represent a day of reflection and pride in our past and renewal and hope for our future.
Juneteenth signifies the day the message of freedom was delivered to the enslaved people of Texas – a message of freedom that was long overdue. On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring all enslaved black Americans free. Union troops never made any significant intrusion into Texas during the Civil War, and Lincoln’s proclamation was lost on the ears of enslaved black Texans for over two years. For this reason, Texas celebrates a date of emancipation separate from most other former slave states.
Juneteenth is a reminder that freedom is always worth celebrating. When the most oppressed heard of their freedom, two and a half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation, it must have sounded like the sweetest of songs.
So today we remember. We remember the lives that were stolen and the part of our past that must never be repeated. But today we also celebrate the restored freedom that was taken away from far too many.
We also honor African Americans’ contribution to the history of Texas. Later this summer, construction will begin on the Texas African American History Memorial on the Capitol grounds – the end result of more than 20 years of work.
The monument will serve as a physical testament to the long role African Americans have played in building our state. The central element is a male and female slave having broken the bonds of slavery, looking forward to a future of freedom and justice and holding the Emancipation Proclamation. This portion is dedicated to the 182,500 slaves that were freed on June 19, 1865. Click here to see detailed images of the monument.
Last week, I met with the Texas State Preservation Board to discuss the location of the monument on the Capitol grounds and receive an update on its progress, and I was pleased to learn that the work is on schedule.
Stay tuned for more information about the unveiling of the monument later this year.
Today is also Father’s Day. I am so blessed that my father, Eligha Ellis, is still with us at age 94.
With my dad and my oldest daughter, Nicole, in 1988
I also emphasize the value of hard work to my children, recognizing that one of the best ways to honor my father is to pass along to his grandchildren the perseverance that he instilled in me.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad!