- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 19, 2002

A week of Juneteenth celebrations that included art exhibits, concerts and memorial services will culminate with a march and rally outside the U.S. Capitol today to observe the official end of slavery.
"It is an American Independence Day celebration, along with July Fourth," said Dr. Ronald V. Myers, founder and chairman of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, who is also a medical doctor. "Americans of African descent were still slaves on the Fourth of July. This completes the cycle."
Hundreds are expected to participate in the third annual Juneteenth Frederick Douglass Freedom March and Rally, which will begin at 11 a.m. at Frederick Douglass' home, 320 A St. NE, and end on the west side steps of the Capitol.
Also at 11 a.m. on the east side of the Capitol, several congressmen and NFL players will discuss new legislation to construct a National Slave Memorial on the Mall. U.S. Rep. Tony P. Hall, Ohio Democrat and Redskins cornerback Darrell Green are scheduled to attend. Before the run, there will be a reading of Union Gen. Gordon Granger's "General Order #3," which declared all slaves free.
In addition, the DC Road Runners Club will also be sponsoring a 3-kilometer run at noon that will begin at the Jefferson Memorial and circle around the Tidal Basin.
All Americans, regardless of race, are encouraged to participate in today's celebrations, Dr. Myers said.
The event that sparked Juneteenth celebrations happened on June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that the Civil War had ended.
Gen. Granger's proclamation that all slaves were free ended more than two years of forced labor that continued because Union troops were not strong enough in Texas to enforce President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.
Many cities throughout the United States now celebrate Juneteenth with festivities on June 19 and the days leading up to it, which often include song and dance and rereadings of the Emancipation Proclamation.
For years Juneteenth was only observed in Texas, which declared it a paid state holiday in 1980. In the past decade Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Iowa and Oklahoma have officially recognized the date with state-holiday status. California, Connecticut and New York are currently considering making Juneteenth a state holiday, Dr. Myers said.
Dr. Myers' foundation is working to get President Bush to issue a proclamation making Juneteenth a nationally observed, unpaid holiday, similar to Flag Day. He hopes to get 1 million supporters to sign his online petition (www.juneteenth.us) before the end of the month.
Dr. Myers said the holiday celebrates the freedom of an entire country, not just of black Americans.
"We all got freedom through different routes, but the common bond we all share is freedom. It's for all Americans," he said.

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