June 20, 2022 at 9:38 a.m.

Commemorating Juneteenth

Dear CSSW Community,

Today, we as members of the Columbia community commemorate the Juneteenth holiday. In 2021, President Joe Biden issued a proclamation, making Juneteenth a federal holiday for the very first time.

Juneteenth highlights the importance of two key dates. First, it points to January 1, 1863, when then-President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, liberating enslaved African-Americans, whom he said as of that date “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” Second, it commemorates June 19, 1865 (more than two years later), when the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas, to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. During that interim period, white slave owners had migrated to Texas with over 150,000 of those enslaved to avoid their rightful liberation – bringing the total number of enslaved people in Texas to 250,000 who were forced to remain in bondage far longer than they should have.

Black Texans began to celebrate Juneteenth as early as 1866, and the traditions spread from there, passed down from generation to generation, and expanded in areas across the country – especially during the Great Migration. You can hear more about how some of our fellow Columbians, including Dean Lowe, have recognized and celebrated Juneteenth over time in this video from 2021.

Let us remind ourselves that this is a time for reflection on where we have been and where we are headed. And let us heed the wise words of the Reverend Raphael Warnock, US Senator from Georgia, who advised us in a beautiful tribute to his father in yesterday’s New York Times, to put our “moral and marching shoes on.” We have an opportunity to push for the true promise of independence and full and fair access to opportunity for EVERYONE in the US. Social workers, with their commitment to equity, human dignity, and advocacy, are uniquely positioned to contribute to this just cause.

In community,

Melissa & Karma