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Statement from TWG Principal Bill Woolf on Juneteenth 

Although the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, declaring that all slaves in Confederate territory were to be set free, it took more than two years for the news to reach all parts of the country. Texas, being geographically remote and with a limited Union presence during the Civil War, was one of the last areas to receive the news of the abolition of slavery. 

The word “Juneteenth” is a combination of “June” and “nineteenth” and marks the date when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, to announce General Order No. 3, which proclaimed the freedom of enslaved people in Texas. 

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, became the 12th U.S. Federal Holiday in 2021 and is now celebrated annually on, you guessed it, June 19th.  

It serves as a reminder of the continuing journey toward racial equality and justice.  

On this day, The Woolf Group (TWG) would like to thank the African American-led nonprofits who cover a wide range of areas, including civil rights, education, health, economic empowerment, arts and culture, youth development, and more. These organizations play a crucial role in addressing systemic issues, advancing social justice, and empowering communities and we are grateful to partner alongside so many, particularly in the areas of human trafficking. 

There are important connections to be made between the historical enslavement of African Americans and modern-day human trafficking, as both involve the exploitation and control of individuals for economic gain: 

Historical Roots:  Enslaved Africans were forcibly brought to the Americas and subjected to forced labor, physical and sexual abuse, separation from families, and denial of basic human rights. This system perpetuated racial hierarchies and economic exploitation. Modern-day human trafficking shares similarities in terms of coercion, exploitation, and control of individuals for profit. 

Commodification and Dehumanization: African American slaves were seen as commodities, treated as property, and denied their basic humanity. Similarly, individuals who fall victim to human trafficking are often dehumanized and reduced to objects of exploitation. They are bought, sold, and treated as commodities for labor, forced prostitution, or other forms of exploitation. 

Systemic Injustices: African American slavery was deeply entrenched in a system of racial discrimination, oppression, and economic exploitation. This system created generational disadvantages and contributed to ongoing systemic racism and inequalities that persist today. Similarly, modern-day human trafficking is often intertwined with systemic injustices such as poverty, lack of education, gender inequality, and migration issues. Marginalized communities and vulnerable individuals are disproportionately affected by human trafficking. 

Fight for Justice and Equality: The struggle against African American slavery was a pivotal part of the broader fight for racial justice and equality. Likewise, combating human trafficking requires a collective effort to raise awareness, enact legislation, strengthen law enforcement, provide support to survivors, and address the root causes of vulnerability and exploitation. Both movements seek to dismantle systems of oppression and ensure the protection of human rights. 

While there are distinct differences between the two, understanding the historical context of African American slavery helps shed light on the persistence of systemic injustices and the fight against contemporary forms of slavery.  Overall, Juneteenth offers nonprofits a chance to align their mission and values with a significant historical event, engage the community in meaningful ways, and further their efforts towards creating a more inclusive and just society.  

TWG is grateful to play a part in this meaningful effort. We have found that through partnership and collaboration with other entities that share similar goals, nonprofits can amplify their impact, reach a broader audience, foster meaningful connections within the community, and bring forth policy change. 

Understanding the historical legacy of African American slavery helps us recognize the importance of addressing modern-day forms of slavery. By examining the past and recognizing the ongoing struggles for justice, we can work towards a more equitable and inclusive society that values the inherent dignity and freedom of all individuals.