Just last year, President Biden recognized Juneteenth National Independence Day as a federal holiday, the first new national observance to be declared since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 1983. This Sunday marks the second commemoration of this federal holiday, but the date has long held historical and cultural significance in the United States. Although the Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1, 1863, the state of Texas refused to recognize the declaration for more than two years. On June 19, 1865, the enslaved African Americans in Texas received the news of their freedom and the end to the inhumane practice of slavery in the U.S.
Juneteenth provides a time of reflection and an opportunity to learn from our nation’s past even as we acknowledge the ongoing harm and trauma of slavery. On Juneteenth, we also celebrate the strength, hope and resilience of a culture that is undeniably and beautifully American.
This week, we will host a number of celebratory events on our campus, including a kickball invitational, a trivia-style game show and a block party. In addition, our Courageous Conversations series will feature a session on diversity, equity and inclusion in the Black community. I hope you will also join with the broader Cleveland community at the Freedom Fest on Saturday, June 18, which includes a full line-up of activities and performances.
As a university, we will observe Juneteenth on Monday, June 20. I hope you will spend that time with family and friends in the manner you choose to recognize this day, or perhaps you will use the holiday to learn more about Juneteenth’s national significance. For me personally, I have learned much about Juneteenth from materials compiled by the National Museum of African American History & Culture. I encourage you to check it out. Also, this website includes an absolutely beautiful recording of Rochelle Rice singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
By learning about and valuing the individuals and cultures that make up our shared community here at CSU, we will continue to develop a campus grounded in mutual respect and understanding.