To the UConn Community:
On June 19, 1865, two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on New Year’ Day 1863, the Union army reached Galveston, Texas, and enforced the executive order to free all people enslaved in Confederate territories. All people held as slaves in the United States were finally free.
Juneteenth has been celebrated by African American communities since the late 1800s. Momentum for declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday has grown since then, thanks in part to the work of activists like Opal Lee, the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” who at age 89 started a walking campaign from Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness about the importance of this holiday. The nation reached a threshold moment during the protests following the unjust deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021. Here in Connecticut, it will become a state holiday on June 19th, 2023.
Juneteenth provides a moment to celebrate and to reflect. Today, we celebrate freedom. We also celebrate the African American community that has contributed so much to our nation. However, Juneteenth also provides a moment to reflect on the terrible toll of slavery and its legacies of systemic racism and inequality that continue today. Rather than rewriting our history to ignore our worst moments, Juneteenth provides us a day to recommit ourselves to the freedom we hold so sacred, especially by committing ourselves to equity, equality, and justice.
According to Dr. Matt Delmont, professor of African American History and the History of Civil Rights at Dartmouth College, Juneteenth is about addressing the issues that continue to face the Black community. Issues such as healthcare disparities, racialized violence, systemic racism and bans on teaching Critical Race Theory (CRT) in classrooms. Dr. Carolyn Calloway, chair of African American and African Diaspora Studies at Indiana University states that “Juneteenth is a way of calling attention to some of America’s sins, while acknowledging the beautiful possibilities for redemption.” The national holiday is also, “a reminder of our collective struggle for freedom and a commitment to protect all that it entails, including voting rights and equity in justice,” says Dr. Jeffrey Ogbar, professor of history at UConn.
As a community, we must pledge to continue raising our voices in support of freedom and in support of abolishing the barriers that limit people’s freedoms. In particular, we must demand the abolition of hate and racism, of sexism and sexually based harassment and violence, of homophobia and transphobia, of antisemitism and islamophobia, of xenophobia, and of all forms of identity-based oppression. Let us commit to being the light!
As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Let us commit to being the change we want to see to make our campuses, community, and country more equitable, equal, and just.
Happy Juneteenth National Independence Day! To learn more about the holiday, as well as to find local celebrations, please visit this wonderful resource put together by the UConn Library.
Dr. Willena Kimpson Price
Director – H. Fred Simons African American Cultural Center
Affiliate Faculty, Africana Studies Institute
Dr. Frank Tuitt
Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer
Office for Diversity and Inclusion
Dr. Jeffrey Hines
Associate Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer
Dr. Anne D’Alleva
Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Office of the Provost