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NewsJun 18, 2020

Lesley marks and celebrates Juneteenth

University adds June 19 Black Independence Day holiday to academic calendar beginning this year, launches online resources for study and self-work

Juneteenth banner that looks like the flag

It is never too late to do the right thing.

This week, President Janet L. Steinmayer announced that, beginning this June 19, Lesley University has added Juneteenth to the academic calendar of observed holidays.

“On this inaugural year of our recognition of this holiday as an institution, we will be making available a body of work to serve as a resource for our Lesley community and beyond,” Steinmayer wrote in her announcement to the community this week. “This will be the foundation of resources that we will continuously build for our community.”

The resource page at Lesley.edu was launched on Thursday, the day before Juneteenth.

Juneteenth, also known as Black Independence Day or Jubilee Day, is a celebration that came late, right from the beginning. The Emancipation Proclamation, freeing enslaved people in the Confederate States, took effect on Jan. 1, 1863. Union soldiers, many of them black, traveled from cities to plantations, reading copies of the proclamation aloud and spreading the news throughout the South. But it took much longer for the news of freedom to reach everyone and for the proclamation to be implemented. On June 19, 1865, Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, bringing the welcome news of Emancipation to enslaved Texans two and a half years after the fact.

June 19 became known as Juneteenth, a day of celebration in black communities across the country. In her book, “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration,” Isabel Wilkerson writes:

“The people from Texas took Juneteenth Day to Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle, and other places they went.” 

In 1979, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday and since then, 46 other states and the District of Columbia have recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday or holiday observance.

“The recognition and celebration of Juneteenth for us as a community here at Lesley marks the initial awakening and shift of consciousness around race for us as leaders and members of this community,” said Maritsa Barros, associated diversity officer. “It may feel late for some, it may feel liberating to others, and some have yet to be awakened.

“But one thing is for sure: We are moving forward as an institution and we are working to provide resources and opportunities to bring along every willing member of the community, no matter where they find themselves in the process of raising consciousness to matters of race and justice.”

Barros urged community members to view Juneteenth as more than just a day off, but as an opportunity for us all to educate ourselves, our families and our respective communities.

“Celebrate, praise and honor the pain and sacrifices of the slaves who endured the suffering to build the foundations of what make up this great nation,” she said.