Celebrating Juneteenth

June 18, 2020

Dear Members of the Bellarmine Community,

On Friday, June 19, the nation will celebrate Juneteenth (June plus Nineteenth), the oldest African American holiday commemorating the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans in Texas 155 years ago. It is our nation's second independence day.

This celebration has taken on added significance this year, as the struggle to address racial justice has reached a level of visibility not seen since the Civil Rights era in the 1960s. While we celebrate Juneteenth as a pivotal moment in our nation’s history, the continuous killing of Black Americans reminds us there is still work to do. I encourage everyone to make time on Friday to learn more about Juneteenth, through an exploration of the holiday's history or through a service opportunity. While the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation occurred two and a half years before, it was not until U.S. Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, and declared, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free,” that Texas recognized the end of slavery and some 250,000 enslaved African Americans were freed.

Juneteenth first became a holiday in Texas in 1980. According to the Congressional Research Service, as of June 3, 2020, 46 of 50 states and the District of Columbia commemorate or observe Juneteenth, including Kentucky. Other names for Juneteenth include Freedom Day and Jubilee Day.

Beginning next year, we are committed to a thorough commemoration of Juneteenth at Bellarmine, with more structured learning and service opportunities. This year, if you wish to make specific plans to commemorate Juneteenth's 155th anniversary, please arrange to take time off on Friday morning by consulting with your supervisor and vice president. Nonexempt (hourly) employees should log this time as OPTO along with Summer OPTO. Exempt staff should track the morning hours as OPTO for this purpose.

On Juneteenth, we acknowledge the long journey for freedom and justice, and we celebrate the rich achievements of African Americans. As we build a tradition of celebrating Juneteenth as a campus community, we recognize this as an opportunity to strengthen our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Susan M. Donovan, Ph.D.