Dear NEOMED Community,
Juneteenth (short for June 19th) is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This news was delivered approximately two months after the Confederate surrender of the Civil War and two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
Here are some facts about the historical moment and what led up to it:
- You may recall Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, this executive order meant immediate freedom for slaves throughout the nation. However, since the country was in the midst of the Civil War, those states that had seceded from the Union did not adhere to the Proclamation, and slaves in those states remained unfree.
- Throughout the war, Texas was not as closely monitored as other battle states. For this reason, many slave owners went to Texas with their slaves. With its relatively negligible Union presence, slavery continued there for much longer. After the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, slaves in war-torn states often escaped behind Union lines or fought on its behalf.
- The slaves who got the news were jubilant to hear of their freedom on Juneteenth. Freedom did not come quickly for everyone in Texas. Some people who should have been freed continued to work through the harvest season because their masters withheld this announcement to reap more wages out of their slaves. This left many former slaves treated as though they were still in bondage.
- Although regularly celebrated since 1865, it wasn’t until 1980 that “Emancipation Day in Texas” became a legal state holiday in recognition of Juneteenth. However, state offices did not completely close, as it was considered a "partial staffing holiday."
- On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the unanimously approved Senate and House approved legislation to establish Juneteenth as a Federally recognized holiday.
Although a step forward, the celebration of Juneteenth will continue to not be enough. Black Americans continue to face systemic racism in the United States. From the racial wealth gap, health disparities, and each incident of gun and other violence that are directed toward Black Americans, we must continue to break down the systemic barriers that lead to disproportionate care of our friends and colleagues.
The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will be launching an Anti-Racism campaign on the monitors on campus starting this week. It will include a summer reading list and information on getting involved in local and national movements. If you have any questions or content you wish to add, please contact Molly at email@example.com.
For more information on Juneteenth, you can visit the following webpages:
Andre Burton, J.D.Vice President for Human Resources and Diversity Office of the President