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June 19, 2024

Statement of ABA President Mary Smith RE: Juneteenth holiday

CHICAGO, June 19, 2024 — Today, the American Bar Association joins the nation in celebrating Juneteenth, the commemoration of the day in 1865 when over 250,000 enslaved Black individuals in Galveston, Texas, finally learned of their freedom—more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. This day holds deep significance as a celebration of liberation, but it is also a reminder of justice delayed, and the ongoing struggle against systemic racism and inequity we must continue to confront.

Juneteenth has profound importance not only for its historical impact, but also as a reminder that our country stands for the principles of justice, equality and the rule of law. It is a day to reflect on the progress made, but also a time to recognize that much work remains to be done to fulfill the promise of equal justice for all. Slavery has left an enduring legacy of systemic racism, discrimination and inequities within the justice system. Today, all in the legal community must reaffirm a commitment to build a more inclusive society.

The ABA honors the spirit of Juneteenth every day by championing the rule of law, promoting equal rights and advancing the cause of racial justice. We understand that we must confront the painful truths of our past and dedicate ourselves to a better future. The legal profession can and should be a catalyst in the efforts to dismantle the barriers to equality that still exist.

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on X (formerly Twitter) @ABANews.