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Juneteenth: A very important day.

Today on Juneteenth, we celebrate the end of slavery in the United States. We are reminded of the horrors and subjugation our nation inflicted on Black Americans. And we continue the fight to end the lingering effects slavery has on our country today.

On June 19, 1865, more than two years after President Lincoln declared all enslaved people in the rebel states free and over two months after Lee's surrender, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. This day went on to be remembered as Juneteenth, and is celebrated as the day slavery ended in the United States.

The 13th Amendment finished the job and abolished slavery forever—with one exception. It permitted slavery to continue in the United States: "as a punishment for crime."

This single line created a framework that states and municipalities could exploit. Southern jurisdictions created criminal codes that were only applied to Black Americans and used these discriminatory laws to arrest, convict, and then re-enslave people who had just been freed and their descendants. Sheriffs would use the Slavery Clause to lease imprisoned individuals back into slavery to mines and plantations, sometimes the same plantations these Black Americans had recently been freed from.

These discriminatory practices contributed to the criminal justice system's long history of racial disparities and fed mass incarceration through parts of the War on Drugs, the proliferation of three strikes laws, severe plea deals, and harsh mandatory minimums.

It is shocking that today, 158 years after the first Juneteenth and almost 158 years after the passage of the 13th Amendment, the U.S. Constitution still includes language that approves slavery. This is a stain on our Constitution and nation.

I am building a coalition to pass the Abolition Amendment, a constitutional amendment to close the loophole in our ban on slavery in the United States. No slavery. No exceptions.

This amendment will not wipe away the terrible legacy of slavery in the United States. But it will give us the opportunity to address one aspect of slavery's pernicious legacy in the United States and begin to fully address it.

This Juneteenth, we all need to celebrate the end of slavery. But we must also continue the fight for a just and equal society for all.



Posted on June 19, 2023.

Born in the small town of Myrtle Creek, Oregon, Jeff Merkley has never lost touch with his working class roots.

As a U.S. Senator, he works every day to create opportunity for working families, stop the corruption of our democracy, and tackle the climate crisis.

A workhorse and a progressive champion, Jeff Merkley is leading a movement to get our country back on track.

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