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Juneteenth Celebration in Austin, Texas, on June 19, 1900

Most people assume that slavery ended with the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation, an assumption that is an enduring falsehood. It is sufficient to note that freedom did not come in a singular moment with the swift penning of a well-intentioned dictate. Freedom, instead, was a process, one fueled initially by self-emancipatory efforts. Of the nearly four million African Americans enslaved by the eve of the Civil War in 1861, more than 500,000 would risk their lives and abscond from their places of enslavement to find freedom anywhere—from the treacherous marshlands of the Mississippi River Delta to the bustling urban centers of Canadian territories, or the subjective security of Union strongholds.

They left on their own volition and altered the very aim of the federal government, an aim that shifted from one defined by the preservation of the union to one that privileged freedom over slavery. In April 1865, the surrender of Confederate commander Robert E. Lee and his army at Virginia’s Appomattox Courthouse, together with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment by the United States Senate, ushered in the official end of slavery—for most. Enslaved African Americans in Texas would find a more challenging path to freedom, one that would lead to the creation of a widely celebrated and frequently misunderstood holiday—Juneteenth.

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Beloved Community,

I hope this message finds you all safe and healthy. My heart is heavy during this time of unrest and upheaval and the Project Pilgrimage staff stands in solidarity with all people who fight against white supremacy, systemic racism, and the senseless violence and murders of black men and women across the country. I am moved by the countless protesters around the world who have lifted their voices and so courageously marched for lasting social change.

The vibration we all feel right now is being produced by we the people taking action to advance the movement. Being part of revolutionary change is a long game and it’s imperative that we find ways to stay engaged after this moment subsides. We must show up at the local level and hold our elected officials accountable for the kind of racism and injustice that poured down on George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and dozens of others.

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Project Pilgrimage attends opening of EJI’s Legacy Museum

In April, Project Pilgrimage took a group of 15 people to the grand opening of Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. The three day summit was an important and moving look into the stark and traumatic history of lynching in America.

The Equal Justice Initiative has been one place we visit on every civil rights pilgrimage. For anyone who has been there, it’s not hard to tell why. The power of the work the organization does, reflected in the many deeply moving photographs dispersed throughout the building and the wall of soils recognizing and honoring the victims of some of the most heinous crimes in our nation’s history, this is something we try to share with every participant of the civil rights pilgrimage. EJI has always been a place of profound work which culminated into a project unlike any other ever undertaken in the United States, the Peace and Justice Memorial.

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