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Republished with Permission from Sen. Johnson
juneteenth

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On June 18, I introduced a resolution discussing slavery and the commemoration of Juneteenth in the state of Michigan. In writing the resolution, I wanted two things: I wanted it to be fact-based and educational. The resolution garnered a plethora of bipartisan support, as 20 other senators co-sponsored with their signatures. With the support of the majority of the Senate, the resolution should have been placed on consent calendar to be adopted by the Michigan Senate. Instead, it was sent to the Judiciary Committee for review.

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State Sen. Rick Jones (R- Grand Ledge), the Judiciary Committee chairman, had one of his staff members contact my office to say there was a “problem’’ with my resolution. Concerned with how my resolution was written, Sen. Jones drafted an alternate resolution with his suggested language. Essentially, the suggestions that he offered changed the educational value of the resolution. Here are some changes that Sen. Jones and his staff made to the resolution:

  •  He changed the following statement:

“Whereas, after the Emancipation from 246 years of slavery, Africans in America continue to experience the vestiges of slavery from challenges to voting rights, inadequate public education systems, lack of access to capital lending institutions, and other social and economic injustices.”

  • To read:

“Whereas, after the Emancipation from 246 years of slavery, and celebrating 150 years since the events in Texas, Juneteenth is a celebration of African American freedom and triumphs. It’s a day of remembrance, for honoring ancestors, and a day of pride.”

  • He completely removed the statement:

“Whereas, slavery highlights the fundamental hypocrisy and moral contradiction of European whites in America that declared independent rights from Great Britain, while holding in bondage more than 100,000 Africans.”

  • And inserted:

“Whereas, jubilation, shock and other emotions were instantaneous with this news for the newly freed persons. Many fled from their former masters in hopes to find a new life and connect with family and friends they had been separated from.”

As my colleague, I feel that it was inappropriate for Sen. Jones to rewrite my resolution and essentially stripped away its authenticity. By doing so, the act was irreprehensible to sanitize a document that acknowledges the struggles of African Americans to the point that it loses its original purpose. In essence, this is an attempt to act as though this never occurred, a way of denying American history. This resolution speaks to the importance of educating our citizens about African American history and I believe that it is important that it is recognized in its authentic form.

Senator Bert Johnson

PO BOX 30036

Lansing, MI 48909

Phone: 517 373 7748

Fax: 517 373 1387

senbjohnson@senate.michigan.gov

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