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June 19, 2009

Juneteenth

This Extra Ink was written by Teen Ink's Global Issues blogger.

Friday, June 19 is "Juneteenth," the celebration of the emancipation of African-American slaves in the United States. June 19, 1865 marks the day that Major General Gordon Granger and his Union soldiers came to Galveston, Texas to liberate the slaves there -- two and a half years after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation declared all slaves in the ten Confederate states (including Texas) free.

Read more about the history of Juneteenth on Juneteenth.com, where you can also find Juneteenth celebrations in your area and a powerful collection of art and quotes that depict the experience of living through the Middle Passage.

Unfortunately, slavery still exists today, from people forced into unpaid labor to children captured in brothels. So, what does it take to end modern-day slavery? We can look to two notable abolitionists from the past for answers: Abraham Lincoln, the president who freed slaves in America, and William Wilberforce, the politician who stopped the slave trade in Britain.

When comparing Lincoln and Wilberforce, a common attribute stands out: a compassionate commitment to their moral duties. When they saw something wrong, they were disturbed on a profound level, to the point that they worked tirelessly at their jobs to see their hopes come true. If our generation is going to end slavery -- as teen abolitionist Zach Hunter hopes -- then we have to emulate this quality of fierce dedication in our everyday lives.

Want to make a difference to modern-day slavery? Check out this post on socially conscious shopping, the Love 146 e-mail newsletter for abolitionists, Not for Sale, and the International Justice Mission. Oh, and here's your Facebook status for Juneteenth: "(Your name) is an abolitionist." (Go ahead, update your Facebook right now -- you know you want to. See, that was easy.)

But those ideas are just your springboard. You must harness your own creativity and passion, as well as the resources at your disposal, into a force for innovative change -- just like Lincoln and Wilberforce did.

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