June 19, 2021, marks the 156th anniversary of Juneteenth, an African American celebration that commemorates the news of emancipation finally reaching those people enslaved in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865—almost two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. On this day, 250,000 enslaved people learned of their freedom.
While Juneteenth stands as a celebration of freedom, it is also a time that honors the strength, spirit, and lives of those men, women, and children who lived under the system of slavery in the United States. Despite delayed freedom, they laid firm claim to their rights of citizenship by creating and elevating a collective memory that affirmed the varied dimensions of their experiences and dreams, and established a legacy that continues to invigorate those who continue to fight for liberation and equality in the 21st century.
Recent events have magnified how much racial inequality persists. We see it in the way the COVID‑19 pandemic has disproportionately affected the country’s Black population. We see it in the way the criminal justice system continues to incarcerate Black men and women at disproportionate rates. And after the monumental demonstrations for racial justice and equality that occurred last summer, and that continue to surge both here and abroad, we know that the work of freedom for all remains incomplete. Juneteenth presents us all with an opportunity to learn from history as we move forward to build the future. As Cougs, we must continue to educate ourselves, listen with humility, amplify the voices of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) members of our campus community, and continuously work toward being better allies.
Juneteenth officially became a federal holiday yesterday, and will become a recognized holiday for the state of Washington in 2022—let it be a day that we all reaffirm our commitment to foster a deeper understanding of the lived experiences of our Black faculty, staff, and students. As members of the Coug family, and as members of the nation and the globe, we honor the anniversary of Juneteenth, and we let it serve as a reminder of the responsibilities we have to one another and the promises of freedom for which we continue to strive.
Provost and Executive Vice President