On the Occasion of Juneteenth
A Time of Remembrance and Action
A year ago this month, the U.S. federal government officially declared June 19 a holiday in observance of Juneteenth. On that day in 1865, enslaved Black Americans in Galveston, Texas, learned from Union Army soldiers that the Civil War had ended and they were no longer legally enslaved. That news came late—two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was ratified on January 1, 1863.
In 2021, the swift passage of bills that created the holiday did not allow time for Fielding to officially observe Juneteenth (a blend of the words June and nineteenth). This year, we are honored to commemorate Juneteenth for the first time as a global learning community and with the public on June 17.
The country’s oldest acknowledgement of emancipation is more than a century old, but it is not just about Black history. It is American history. Looking globally, we know that the spirit of Juneteenth extends beyond the United States.
Our observance of this important day provides an opportunity for our community to reflect on freedom gained; and the long struggle for parity African Americans continue to face in this country. The continued persistence of white supremacy, the racial wealth gap, unequal education, and persistent health disparities are among the barriers that African American and other marginalized groups contend with every day.
As a university long committed to social change and advocates for social justice, such challenges remind us that service, through teaching, learning, research, and practice, is imperative—and must never stop. Angela Davis, the 2022 recipient of our Marie Fielder Medal for Social Transformation, reminds us that “hope is a discipline, something to use every day against injustice.” My hope is that every member of the Fielding community will use Juneteenth to reflect on their role in advocating for the equality that all deserve and are promised in a democracy.
Katrina S. Rogers, Ph.D.