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Juneteenth: Celebrating The Other Independence Day

By Jutta Seibert

On Monday, June 19, the Villanova community, along with the United States, commemorates Juneteenth. The University added Juneteenth to its list of holidays in 2020 to allow staff, faculty, and students to observe this important day in the nation’s history with family and friends.

A portmanteau of the words June and nineteenth, Juneteenth references June 19, 1865, the day on which the news that all slaves are free reached Galveston, Texas. The Civil War had been effectively over for more than two months, but the news had not yet reached the far corners of the country. The following year African Americans in Texas began celebrating the end of slavery on June 19 of every year.

Juneteenth is also known as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, (Black) Independence Day, and Jubilee Day.

Emancipation Day Celebration band, June 19, 1900, Texas. University of North Texas Libraries.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Not unexpectedly Texas was the first state to officially recognize Juneteenth as a holiday, first by proclamation in 1937 followed by legislation in 1979. Other states followed suit, among them Pennsylvania in 2019. On June 17, 2020, President Joseph Biden elevated Juneteenth to a federal holiday, one of only eleven, by signing the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law.

The University’s commitment to race and justice goes well beyond recognizing Juneteenth as an important holiday. In 2020 Aequitas, the Presidential Task Force on Race began to assess the racial climate on campus. One of the measures proposed by the task force was a university-wide required course on race and justice, which is currently piloted on campus.

Another noteworthy initiative is the Rooted Project that aims to explore the University’s historical ties to slavery, segregation, and institutionalized racism, among others, and to educate the community about issues of race and justice.

Join Falvey staff in commemorating and celebrating this special day!

For those still looking for an inspiring read for this summer, here are some suggestions:

Jutta Seibert is Director of Research Services & Scholarly Engagement at Falvey Library.





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Last Modified: June 19, 2023

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