To the UConn Community:
On June 19, 1865, two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on New Years’ Day 1863, the Union army liberated the last community of enslaved Americans in Galveston, Texas. All people held as slaves in the United States were finally free. This holiday became known as Juneteenth, or America’s second Independence Day.
Juneteenth has been celebrated by African American communities since the late 1800s. Thanks to the work of activists like Opal Lee, the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” national awareness spread. In 2021, Congress declared Juneteenth to be a federal holiday, soon followed by declarations from 28 states, including Connecticut. Though Connecticut has commemorated it since 2001, this year is the first in which Juneteenth is an official State holiday. Today, communities across the state will celebrate freedom and the African American communities that have contributed so much.
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.
As a community, we must pledge to continue raising our voices in support of freedom and in support of abolishing barriers that limit people’s freedoms. We must demand the abolition of hate and racism, sexism and sexually based harassment and violence, homophobia and transphobia, antisemitism and islamophobia, xenophobia, and of all other forms of identity-based oppression.
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.” This Juneteenth, let us commit to being the change we want to see to make our campuses, community, and country more equitable, equal, and just. Let us commit to being the light! Happy Juneteenth National Independence Day!
The Provost’s Office
The Office for Diversity and Inclusion
The African American Cultural Center
The Office for Diversity and Inclusion, UConn Health