June 19, 2020
Yale Divinity School Dean today released the following statement on Juneteenth and racism in America.
Today is the 19th of June—Juneteenth. We know that Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863. But that proclamation had not reached all the states until the 19th of June 1865. It was on that day that Union Major-General Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 to the people of Galveston, stating, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
Slavery has been abolished now for 155 years. However, African Americans have not been truly free, and have certainly not been treated as equals. The horrible murders of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks that we recently witnessed are direct echoes of the system of slavery and racism that are America’s original sin. We have moved from slavery to Jim Crow to the new Jim Crow. Still we have systemic injustices that undermine our claim as Americans that all are equal.
The legacy of slavery hangs around our necks like a dead albatross, whose stench can be smelled throughout the world. It is time to remove it from American society once and for all.
I hope today, as we remember the delivery of the Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved people in Texas, that we resolve to dismantle the racism that has been the scourge of American history.
There is an old saying that a crisis should never be wasted. May we take the opportunity afforded by the current coalescence of the health, economic, and racism crises and change unjust structures that persist in American society today.
Gregory E. Sterling
The Reverend Henry L. Slack Dean
Lillian Claus Professor of New Testament
Yale Divinity School