On the origins of Juneteenth
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” — General Orders, Number 3; Headquarters District of Texas, Galveston, June 19, 1865
One hundred and fifty-six years ago, this order was read in Galveston, Texas. Its reading meant that thousands of slaves, who had not yet received word that slavery had ended via the Emancipation Proclamation two and a half years earlier, could now be free. Even while many still were not immediately liberated, Juneteenth as a celebration of emancipation commemorating the nineteenth of June was celebrated for the first time a year later in 1866.
Recently, President Biden signed a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. The last federal holiday to be added was in 1983, when President Ronald Reagan signed a bill adding Martin Luther King Jr. Day to celebrate Dr. King’s contributions to the civil rights movement. This act recognizes the importance of our collectively remembering the history around this day and what it has meant for the African American community and this nation.
As a university, we celebrate Juneteenth by basking in the joys of liberation while also solemnly acknowledging the many who were not able to live outside of bondage. We also take this as a time to center the awareness that we are still on the road to true freedom for the BIPOC community. In our commitment to cultivating whole persons in the true sense of the word, Georgian Court commemorates Juneteenth by centering the truth that no one is free until we all are.
I encourage you to discuss Juneteenth with your loved ones, participate in Juneteenth events, and read more about the day. I hope it is an enriching reminder of our common humanity.
— Joseph R. Marbach, Ph.D., Georgian Court University President