HARRISBURG (June 17, 2021) – Pennsylvania Bar Association President Kathleen D. Wilkinson issued the following statement after the passage of a bill in the U.S. Congress declaring June 19 “Juneteenth National Independence Day,” a federal holiday commemorating the day when the last slaves in the U.S. learned that they had been emancipated. It’s expected to be signed by President Biden today.
“Yesterday’s passing of a bill declaring June 19 a federal holiday by the U.S. Congress marks progress in recognizing the deep scars slavery has left on American history. But we must continue to work for equality, equity and justice for all, whether it be in the courtroom or the boardroom.
Freedoms are the bedrock of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. When these freedoms are abridged based on the color of one’s skin, we deny the fundamental ideal that has united Americans from generation to generation—liberty and justice for all. In 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, yet slavery continued until the Civil War ended and until the last slaves were freed in Texas.
In Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court this year declared June 18 a court holiday in honor of Juneteenth. Various local and state bar associations across the state and the nation are holding educational programming about how to learn from its history and make for a more equal tomorrow.
As a lawyer organization comprised of diverse lawyers with diversity and inclusion as part of its mission statement, and groups aimed at assuring full and equal participation of minorities in the association, the legal profession and the justice system, we are advocates for the rule of law. As lawyers who take an oath to support and defend the Constitution and our freedoms, we will continue to strive to do better in the fight for equality and equal representation, on Juneteenth and every day, in our profession, for our clients and in the communities where we live and serve.”
Founded in 1895, the Pennsylvania Bar Association strives to promote justice, professional excellence and respect for the law; improve public understanding of the legal system; facilitate access of legal services; and serve the lawyer members of the state’s largest organized bar association.