As the nation continues to grapple with racial injustice and unrest in the wake of numerous deaths that have dominated the news and fueled widespread protests, Gov. Laura Kelly vowed Friday to continue the fight against racism during a proclamation signing that celebrated the end of slavery.


In a late-morning ceremony at the Statehouse, the governor signed an order recognizing June 19, 2020, as Juneteenth National Freedom Day in Kansas. Kelly was joined for the signing by the Topeka Family and Friends Juneteenth Committee.


"Juneteenth is an opportunity to recognize our nation's conflicting history, reflect on our struggle to reach true freedom for all Americans, and pledge to continue fighting to end systemic racism," Kelly said. "As Kansans, we can and must do better."


Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, and specifically refers to June 19, 1865, when Union Gen. Gordon Granger announced federal orders proclaiming all slaves in Texas were free. The liberation announcement came two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln, went into effect.


Kelly’s Juneteenth proclamation recognizes African Americans for serving in U.S. wars and conflicts, exemplifying courage and patriotism, and exhibiting patience with grace in the face of violence, segregation and Jim Crow laws. It also pledges that "Kansans remain committed to ensuring the value and dignity of all people" in the midst of "ongoing national dialogue of the meaning of freedom."


Kelly urged all Kansans to do their part in bringing an end to systemic racism.


"My administration is committed to making Kansas a more equitable place for everyone who chooses to call this state their home," Kelly said.