This week, join us as we commemorate Juneteenth and celebrate Black Americans’ perseverance and history.
What Does Juneteenth Commemorate?
On January 1st, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that all enslaved individuals were now free; however, the news didn’t reach all of the states. It wasn’t until more than two years later, on June 19th, 1865, a Union general, Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston, Texas, and informed the last of the enslaved people of their freedom and the last of the war. The day came to be known as Juneteenth and has been celebrated since the late 1800s. Celebrations often included family gatherings, food, prayer, and even pilgrimages to Galvensan, Texas by formerly enslaved people and their families.
In 2021, President Biden signed a bill to recognize Juneteenth as a federal holiday to honor the determination of Black Americans and to recognize both the past and present injustices that occur for Black people in the United States. In 2022, Governor Kemp signed a bill into law making Juneteenth a paid holiday for Georgia employees.
While efforts have been made in legislation to honor and recognize the significance of Juneteenth, it’s important we acknowledge the fact that, while progress has been made over the past 150 years, Black people are still facing major injustices and barriers that are hindering more meaningful progress. One of those injustices is mass incarceration.
Although comprising only ~13% of the population, Black people in our country are incarcerated in state prisons at nearly five times the rate of white Americans (The Sentencing Project) and make up about 60% of wrongful convictions proven through post-conviction DNA testing (National Registry of Exonerations).
In the face of repeated tragic events and national outrage, our position is that we cannot effectively advocate on behalf of our wrongfully convicted clients if we do not also work to address the systemic racism and racial bias that breeds unreliable convictions, unjust and inequitable treatment, government indifference, and lack of accountability.
This Juneteenth, we encourage you to use the holiday as an opportunity to educate yourself as we continue working to address the main causes of wrongful convictions in Georgia and prevent more in the future.
Discover events in Georgia commemorating Juneteenth here or learn more about the history of Juneteenth in the links below.
*This blog was made possible with the help of GIP 2023 Summer Interns Galilee Barron and Noor Abdallah