For a century and a half, many Black Americans have observed Juneteenth (June 19) as the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the United States. Today, we all recognize Juneteenth not just as a celebration of the end of slavery, but as a call to action to finally move our country to true racial justice and equality.

Unfortunately, it has never been clearer how short we have fallen in fulfilling the promise of racial justice and equity. That promise is central to our work to restore and strengthen our democracy so that we truly have a government by, of, and for all the people, rather than a government that continues to be controlled by and for a narrow subset of primarily white wealthy Americans. 

For too long, our nation has expected that it is up to Black victims of systemic white racism to fix our systemic racism.  We celebrate Abraham Lincoln, the Union victory, and the constitutional amendments that ended slavery, but we have often failed to recognize that, as Jamelle Bouie of the New York Times explains in “Why Juneteenth Matters,” it wasn’t Lincoln or the generals who freed the slaves — “the slaves freed the slaves.”

It is time to recognize and act on the understanding that it is no longer up to Black people to fix systemic white racism; it is up to all of us.   This Juneteenth, we at Free Speech For People recommit ourselves to that effort and to relentlessly pursue and demand, in all of our work and our daily lives, racial justice and equality and a democracy by and for all Americans.