June 17, 2020 at 11:33 a.m.

In Honor of Juneteenth

Dear CSSW Community,

This Friday, June 19th, Black Americans across the country will commemorate Juneteenth, a day that honors the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S. On this date in 1865, a Union Army general arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved Black Americans that the Civil War had ended and slavery had been abolished. This was about two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had gone into effect, declaring that “all persons held as slaves … henceforward shall be free.”

Juneteenth, which is a combination of the words “June” and “nineteenth,” is also known as Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Cel-Liberation Day and Black Independence Day. All of these monikers for this day would seem to have a renewed, apropos meaning as we bear witness to the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, and as Black Americans across the U.S. continue to march and demand their freedom. Freedom from indiscriminate racism. Freedom to bird watch, barbecue or jog. Freedom to sleep in their homes without fear of being killed. Freedom to… just be.

This year’s Juneteenth is “an opportunity for folks to kind of catch their breath about what has been this incredible pace of change and shifting that we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks,” Duke University professor Dr. Mark Anthony Neal recently remarked.

Sharing that sentiment, we are asking the CSSW community to honor Juneteenth as a “day of reflection,” free from our usual work meetings and check-ins. For many of us, that should mean taking the time to consider how we can join in the continued fight for racial justice and equality, so central to our CSSW mission. For others, particularly the Black and African-American members of our community, we hope that you will be able to mark this day with healing and self-care. There also are many commemorative events planned across the country – both celebrations of joy and those that push for continued liberation of Black Americans – which we would encourage you to explore.

On Friday, let us mark Juneteenth by recognizing the legacy of slavery in the U.S. and recommitting ourselves to combating anti-Black racism in all its forms. While there has been much progress for Black Americans, after many years of struggle, there is still far more work to be done.

With best regards,

Melissa Begg
Dean & Professor

Karma Lowe
Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion