17:47 PM

UHCL observes Juneteenth: ‘It’s not just Black history, it’s American History’

Written by: Lauren Sawyer

It’s been two years since President Joe Biden signed the legislation officially making Juneteenth a federal holiday in 2021. Juneteenth is a chance to celebrate freedom for all Americans. Although the actual end of slavery came with the Emancipation Proclamation of Jan. 1, 1863, the news did not reach Texas for another year and a half, on June 19, 1865.

“On Juneteenth, we remember our extraordinary capacity to heal, to hope, and to emerge from our worst moments as a stronger, freer, and more just nation.  It is also a day to celebrate the power and resilience of Black Americans, who have endured generations of oppression in the ongoing journey toward equal justice, equal dignity, equal rights, and equal opportunity in America,” Biden said.

Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Brice Yates said it’s a day to celebrate and to educate our community.

“It’s not just Black history, it’s American history. It is important that we educate the campus, the community, and the country about the importance of Juneteenth and understanding what it truly means," he said. 

Freeing the remaining slaves happened in Galveston, Texas which is approximately 33 miles south of UH- Clear Lake’s campus. On June 19, 1865 — over two years after President Lincoln declared all enslaved persons free — Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and Union Army troops marched to Galveston to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation and free the last enslaved Black Americans in Texas.

“The announcement happening in Galveston impacts us here too. It’s just down the road, in the Bay Area. They are a part of our service region. This was a local thing that happened, and it isn’t often discussed,” Yates explained. “We need to find more ways to celebrate that. While grateful for having this day off, it’s also a day for reflection.” There are many pieces of history that tie together. This is the opportunity to show UHCL’s  community that no matter what their background or race is, there are more similarities than differences.

“Our student population reflects individuals from various backgrounds. We are a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and Minority Serving Institution (MSI). We have a large Latino(a) student population and when speaking of Latino(a) identity, it is important to incorporate Afro-Latinos in the conversation,” he said. “In Texas there were enslaved African Americans and further west enslaved Native Indigenous people, a piece of history often not discussed. We look at history from certain perspectives, but don’t try to tie the pieces together. That’s one of the things we can look at moving forward. Juneteenth is the true Independence Day for America because all Americans were freed at that time.”

UHCL students are also excited about observing Juneteenth. Taylor May, a senior pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, said that she grew up in a predominately Black neighborhood in Galveston County and said it was nice to see the holiday recognized on a federal level.

“It’s always been important where I am from. National recognition is long overdue,” she said. “I am happy that our campus is observing Juneteenth and it’s very appreciated.”

For more information about UHCL’s Office of Student Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, visit www.uhcl.edu/student-affairs/student-engagement/diversity-equity-inclusion/