Commemorating Juneteenth

Dear members of the Bellarmine Community, 

On Saturday, June 19, our nation will celebrate Juneteenth (June plus Nineteenth). Juneteenth, the oldest African-American holiday, commemorates the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans 156 years ago. It is our nation's second Independence Day.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, but it wasn’t until federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, 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. In 2021, 49 of 50 states, including Kentucky, and the District of Columbia commemorate or observe Juneteenth. Other names for Juneteenth include Freedom Day and Jubilee Day.

As we prepare to celebrate this significant day, I asked several members of the Bellarmine community to share some reflections about Juneteenth:


Why is Juneteeth Celebrated?

Dr. Jakia Marie, assistant professor of Sociology and faculty for the African and African American Diaspora Studies minor, provides a brief history of Juneteenth in this video, along with some unique facts about the holiday.


"Moses, Don't Get Lost"

Dave Clark, director of the university’s Jazz Studies program, commemorates the holiday with the African-American spiritual “Moses, Don’t Get Lost,” and explains why he chose this piece.


Articles from the Office of Identity and Inclusion, as well as the Black Student Union


I invite and encourage you to watch, listen and read these deeply felt personal observations, and I thank Jakia, Dave, Joe, Emily and Giselle for sharing.

As we continue to 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. If you wish to make specific plans to commemorate Juneteenth's 156th 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 celebrate the rich achievements of African Americans. We recognize the long journey for freedom and justice. We acknowledge that the journey continues, and we rededicate ourselves to the work of creating a country where there truly is liberty and justice for all.  

DJ Mitchell, Ph.D.
Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer