DEI Dean Karma Lowe Featured in Columbia University Mini-Doc on the Significance of Juneteenth

June 17 @ 7:59 pm
By Communications Office

This year marks the second time Columbia will observe the day as a university-wide holiday, and President Biden signed a bill today making it a federal holiday.

Juneteenth is an opportunity for celebration as well as reflection and coalition building, says Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement Karma Lowe in a Columbia University mini-documentary. She joins eight other Columbia students, scholars, and staff members in a short film reflecting on the significance of the day that, for many, officially marks the end of slavery in the United States.

During the American Civil War, emancipation came at different times to various places in the southern United States. It finally reached Texas, the most remote of the slave states, on June 19, 1865, when Union Army troops marched into Galveston and read General Order No. 3, proclaiming freedom from slavery in Texas. From that time on, many people, especially in the southern United States and particularly in Texas, celebrated Juneteenth (a portmanteau of “June” and “nineteenth”) as the day when every enslaved person in the Confederate States finally knew that they were free. But while many Americans have celebrated the day for generations, others are just discovering the date’s significance. Lowe has honored the day for many years with family, particularly her patrilineal relatives, who are originally from Texas.

“The mood of the day for me is one of jubilation,” Lowe states in the video. “It really is about celebration. It is about reading about the day, talking about the day, thinking about what it means to be a descendant of enslaved peoples in America and how far we’ve come.”

Yet the day also has significance for other nonwhite Americans, Lowe says. “Whether you are Latinx, whether you are Afro American, whether you are South Asian…you know what it is to feel othered, to feel like you don’t belong, to walk through this world feeling as though you have something to prove to other folx. …Juneteenth is about not just embracing the history of Black Americans but embracing the history of nonwhite folx in general in this country and saying, ‘Hey, we have to band together.’”

Other Columbians featured in the video are

  • Frank Guridy, Associate Professor of History and African American and African Diaspora Studies
  • Colby King, CC’22, African American and African Diaspora Studies and Psychology
  • Lewis Long, Associate Director, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery
  • Stephanie McCurry, R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of American History in Honor of Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • Robert O’Meally, Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English and Comparative Literature
  • Samuel Roberts, Associate Professor of History, Sociomedical Sciences, and African American and African Diaspora Studies
  • Ixchel Rosal, Associate Vice President for Student Life, Office of University Life
  • Bérénice Sylverain, GS’21, African American and African Diaspora Studies

Related link:

COMMUNITY ROUNDTABLE: Meaning of Juneteenth and Plans for Commemoration