President Barack Obama has marked the anniversary of what has become known as "Juneteenth" to mark the day word reached enslaved African Americans in Texas on June 19, 1865 that they were free.
In a written statement, Mr. Obama said the Juneteenth anniversary serves as a time of reflection and appreciation. He said African Americans have helped build the nation "brick by brick" and have contributed to its growth in every way, even when they were denied rights and liberties.
Mr. Obama, the country's first African-American president, said the occasion carries "even more significance" considering Thursday's resolution passed unanimously in the Senate apologizing for slavery and segregation.
The resolution apologizes for "the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery" and system of institutionalized racism and segregation known as "Jim Crow."
The resolution, introduced by Senators Tom Harkin and Sam Brownback, "expresses its recommitment to the principle that all people are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." It also calls on all people of the U.S. to "work toward eliminating prejudices, injustices and discrimination from U.S. society."
The House of Representatives is also expected to take up the measure soon. A similar resolution passed by a voice vote in the House last year.
During the Civil War in the 1860s, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation , ordering the slaves to be freed in the southern states that were in rebellion, eventually leading to the abolition of slavery in all of the United States. However, the slaves in Texas learned of their emancipation on June 19, 1865 more than two years after the proclamation. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, added after Mr. Lincoln's assassination in 1865, abolished all slavery in the U.S.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP.