The Center Speaks Out About Juneteenth

June 17, 2020

Despite its importance to the history of the United States, the Juneteenth holiday is not familiar to many. June 19th, or Juneteenth, commemorates the end of legal slavery in the United States. Specifically, this date represents the day in 1865 on which Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston, Texas to read the General Order Number 3, which began by stating:  

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves and the connection heretofore existing between them, becomes that between employer and hired labor.”  

It is critical to note that, while a welcome proclamation for the enslaved people of Texas, the news came nearly two-and-a-half years following Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863. This delay meant that Black men, women, and children continued to work as slaves under inhumane conditions for approximately 900 days after the practice was declared illegal by the federal government. Additionally, freed Black slaves and their descendants were not granted equal rights or privileges until 1964, almost a century later. Furthermore, we have only to look at recent events in our country to recognize that racism against Black and Indigenous Persons of Color persists in very real ways in our homes, workplaces, and communities. In the face of this adversity, Black Americans have demonstrated enormous resilience and achievement. Juneteenth marks an opportunity for all of us to commemorate and celebrate those accomplishments. Included on our website here are some links to learn more about just a few of these many achievements, locally and beyond.  

Juneteenth is also an opportunity to reflect on how we can fight anti-black racism through our own education, growth, and action. We encourage our faculty, staff, collaborators, and community members to use this day to celebrate their identity, engage in community service or outreach, or to reflect on and educate ourselves about the ways in which we can all play a part in addressing racial inequity. On our website here you’ll find some community Juneteenth events, many of which are virtual.