U.S. Gen. Gordon Granger marched into Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865 – two months after the Civil War ended – and read aloud the Emancipation Proclamation, effectively ending slavery in that region.
In the years since, many African American communities, especially in Texas, have commemorated “Juneteenth” as the liberation day for enslaved people – who, legally speaking, had been freed 2 ½ years earlier.
“The first Juneteenth celebrations were organized in 1866 by Black communities across Texas, and in the years since, Juneteenth has become an internationally recognized commemoration,” Kevin McDonald, UVA’s vice president for diversity, equity, inclusion and community partnerships, said.
Texas made June 19 an official holiday in 1979, 41 other states and the District of Columbia have since followed suit, according to Henry Louis Gates’ article, “What Is Juneteenth?” which describes efforts to preserve and promote this African American history as part of American history.
Juneteenth in Virginia, and on Grounds
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam made Juneteenth an official observance last year – with UVA joining in – and the General Assembly voted in October to make it an official state holiday. Since June 19 falls on a Saturday this year, it will be observed with a day off on Friday, June 18 (except for the University Medical Center, which will remain open).
However, the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center in Charlottesville notes, “Juneteenth had been celebrated in our community long before it was made a [state] holiday in 2020. This year marks the 21st Juneteenth celebration.” Juneteenth also had been commemorated sporadically on Grounds in recent decades, especially by the UVA Library.
UVA’s Division for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is spreading the word about how people in the University and local community can celebrate this year’s Juneteenth with events and activities, listed below, presented by UVA, local community partners and the UVA Black Faculty and Staff Employee Resource Group.
“I invite everyone in our UVA and communities to take time this Juneteenth to learn, celebrate and reflect upon how we can continue toward a more democratic and racially just future,” McDonald said.
Ways to Commemorate Juneteenth
- See the social media pages of the Division for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion where you can find several articles, videos, podcasts and websites that discuss the history of Juneteenth.
- Visit the UVA Black Faculty and Staff Employee Resource Group’s social media pages to view media focusing on self-emancipation and other topics.
- Celebrate Juneteenth by displaying a custom Zoom background.
- Wear a Juneteenth button, now available for free from one of the following locations: Clemons Library; UVA Bookstore; the Slaughter, Memorial and North Grounds recreational facilities; the Medical Center; and Facilities Management locations on Leake Drive and in the West Complex.
- Attend the virtual talk, “Juneteenth: A Day of Jubilee and Commitment to Justice,” by guest speaker Amy Tillerson-Brown, chair and professor of history at Mary Baldwin University, on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. (Register for the event here.)
- Check out the books and apparel curated by UVA Bookstore commemorating Juneteenth.
- Go to the virtual or in-person Juneteenth celebrations hosted by the Orange County African American Historical Society and Montpelier, including storytelling, music, film and walking tours.
- Join the Juneteenth celebration hosted by the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, which includes in-person, outdoor activities Saturday afternoon and virtual talks that night.