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Ranking Member Cole Hearing Remarks on S. 475

As prepared for delivery during today’s hearing:

We’re here on very short notice on S. 475. This item establishes June 19 as “Juneteenth Independence Day” and makes it a federal holiday.

Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of African American slaves immediately following the end of the Civil War. In subsequent years, it has become a time for Americans of all races to reflect on the end of slavery in this country, and a celebration of African American heritage.

On Juneteenth, we as Americans remember the sacrifices of Union soldiers who fought to end slavery. We remember Abraham Lincoln, whose Emancipation Proclamation paved the way for the full ending of slavery in this country.  We remember subsequent generations of African American leaders, including Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr., and heroes of the Civil Rights Movement, like our own much missed and departed John Lewis.

But most of all, we remember the generations of African Americans who were held in bondage as slaves. It is right that Americans should dedicate a day to remembering these millions who were so unjustly held against their will for so long.

My home state of Oklahoma has recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday since 1994. I am deeply gratified that the House is acting today to extend this recognition to the federal level. Indeed, this is an idea whose time has come.

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