There have been many firsts in my year as Georgia State’s first African American president, but I am particularly proud to be at the helm during Georgia’s first official statewide recognition of Juneteenth. It’s a long-overdue recognition, and I’m so pleased to know that our university community has marked this important occasion for years. This year, the university will be closed on June 20 to reflect on the struggles of the past and celebrate the rich heritage and contributions of African Americans.
Juneteenth marks June 19, 1865, when Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, the most remote part of the Confederacy, to announce that the Civil War had ended and that all enslaved people were now free. Often referred to as the country’s “second Independence Day,” the holiday proclaims freedom, and it has been celebrated in many parts of the country since the late 1800s.
I have really enjoyed seeing how the entire university community has been marking this milestone. This year at Georgia State, we celebrate not only what Juneteenth means historically, but explored the layered impact on today’s cultural climate. We hosted a Juneteenth cookout as well as a panel discussion on the history and misconceptions surrounding the holiday.
The day was recognized as a federal holiday on June 17, 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law. In Georgia, we are grateful to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp who recently signed legislation to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday.
At Georgia State, we are uniquely positioned in higher education to reflect and move forward. I will be reflecting Monday on our past and celebrating our future, and I hope you are able to find time to do the same.
All the best,