Honoring Juneteenth, Freedom Day
Posted by Natasha Martin, JD, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion on Friday, June 11, 2021 at 4:27 PM PDT
Dear Seattle University Community,
June 19, 1865 – “Juneteenth” - marks the day that enslaved African Americans in Texas were informed by Union soldiers in Galveston, Texas that the Civil War was over and that they were free people. This announcement was shared nearly 2 ½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued. The following year, the first celebration of freedom took place in Texas organized by those formerly enslaved. I shared more about this history in my note to campus a year ago.
This year, the University observes Juneteenth as a University holiday to commemorate the freedom of enslaved African Americans as shared in the President’s message last month. Yesterday, Juneteenth became a new federal holiday as U.S. President Biden signed into law what will be Juneteenth National Independence Day. It became a paid holiday for Washington state last month. In a time when many states are actively fighting against understanding the fullness of American history through pursuits to ban critical race theory in schools and defund schools teaching The 1619 Project, Juneteenth is a reminder of the progress made, and the strength needed to embrace the promise of moving toward the equitable and just society we all deserve.
Let us celebrate what is also known as Freedom Day and Jubilee Day with a renewal to civic engagement that we as a city and country marched for and witnessed over the past year. We are only 100 years past some of the country’s most horrific racial atrocities including the Tulsa Race Massacre and a year from the most consequential social movement following the murder of George Floyd. May we continue the quest for equality by grounding ourselves in hard truths of our shared history and find ways to make this more than a day “off,” but a day “on” -- by learning, listening, exercising love in action, and embracing the beauty of our full humanity.
In the spirit of our ongoing efforts to affirm, ally for solidarity, and act in the pursuit of racial equity and justice, I offer the Reflection Questions from the Racial Equity Summit and the 2021 Inclusive Excellence Summer Reading List.
Please see the list of online & in-person events, resources, and local celebrations in honor of Juneteenth 2021 here.
Natasha T. Martin, J.D.
Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion