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Celebrating African American Achievement on Juneteenth

Juneteenth - Freedom Day

“... Oppressed so hard, they could not stand. Let my people go!”
Sung by Louis Armstrong
Written by Sy Oliver

These words were part of the soulful song Go Down Moses. Yet they tell only some of the story of every enslaved person in the state of Texas who was not rightly emancipated on January 1, 1863. It was not until June 19, 1865 that Union troops marched into Galveston, Texas carrying the news of the Emancipation Proclamation (President Lincoln’s bold military strategy). For the 250,000 enslaved Blacks on the western-most edge of the Confederacy, the message of freedom had taken nearly two and a half years to arrive. And so, the 19th day of June became known as Juneteenth. On December 18, 1865, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified and American slavery was ultimately abolished. 

According to the historians at the National Museum of African American History & Culture, the era of Reconstruction began in 1865 and continued until 1877. On March 3, 1865, Congress established the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. The Freedmen’s Bureau provided social services like food and medicine, established a registry of African Americans, tried to reunite families with members who had been sold off or traded, and started schools. During this period, free men (not yet women, alas) fully engaged the political system to pursue the full rights of citizenship. Historian Eric Foner estimates that 2,000 Black men held public office by 1877, a remarkable figure given Foner could only locate two Black men in office before the Civil War.

Although this was a time of great transformation for African Americans, the defeated Confederates remained an obstructive force of great consequence, who attempted to suppress these freedoms through violence, intimidation and racist laws.

The 14th Amendment guaranteed all persons born in the United States the rights of citizenship, life, liberty, property, access to education, and representation in government. The right for men to vote was granted with the 15th Amendment. These amendments to the U.S. Constitution were supported by Black people both north and south during the Reconstruction era. 

On this Juneteenth, African Americans have much to celebrate. From artists, professors, scientists, doctors, lawyers, Congresspeople, to the first Black American President, these are the accomplishments of the descendants of slaves. Sadly, recent events have cast a shadow over these achievements. On this Juneteenth, there is a unified voice resounding around the globe that demands continued change, equality, and acceptance of Africans and their descendants.

We celebrate diversity in education through our faculty and student body, which is distributed around the world. As a university, we embrace the value of equity in education and aim to maintain inclusive representation among our faculty, team members, and students. We support the diverse nature of our community by creating an environment in which the members of our global community experience educational growth and success and feel connected.

Here are further resources, including a timeline, where you can learn more about the history of emancipation.