President's Message: Celebrating Juneteenth
Dear UHD Community,
"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free."
Those words are taken from General Orders, Number 3 issued by the Union Army's Major General Gordon Granger. In effect, they provide the foundation for a day we have come to know as Juneteenth. It was on June 19, 1865 (two years following President Abraham Lincoln's signing of the Emancipation Proclamation) that Union troops landed in Galveston, Texas and informed its Black residents that they were free from slavery. It represented an important turning point in our country's history, and it happened just 50 miles from our campus.
Now more than ever, it's important that we recognize the significance of Juneteenth (or Freedom Day as it is also known) and what it meant … and continues to mean … to all Americans.Following yesterday's Senate vote, Juneteenth is one step closer to becoming a Federal holiday. Bearing that in mind, it is important that our University Community recognizes the significance of this transformative moment.
Our city will be filled with events educating Houstonians on the significance of this day, but if you can't attend them, feel free to take advantage of the resources available here at UHD. Our W.I. Dykes Library has a wealth of materials available to students, faculty and staff … but don't forget about our greatest resources—our people.
UHD's Center for Diversity & Inclusion (which is hosting a celebration at 10 a.m., June 17 at S370 One Main Building) and the Center for Critical Race Studies can provide clarity on Juneteenth for our UHD Community. Also, engage with your peers to discuss this holiday and to promote a greater understanding of all that it represents.
Juneteenth marked a new beginning for our nation, but as evidenced with ongoing violence and racism, struggles persist for so many Americans of color.It is through the efforts of many brave individuals that the road forward has been paved with hope. Many of them have been based right here in Houston. These include freedman and community activist John Henry "Jack" Yates; the first Black person elected to public office in the 20th century Hattie Mae White; activist and U.S. Representative Mickey Leland; Civil Rights leader and U.S. Representative Barbara Jordan; and community leader Rev. William A. Lawson among so many others.
I recognize that there are many within our UHD community who are prepared to follow in their footsteps. Whether you're a student or an employee, all of you have the potential to consequentially impact your respective communities. Together, we can all be part of a continued movement toward justice and hope.
However you choose to recognize Juneteenth this weekend, let's do so while observing this holiday's relevance and legacy to current and future generations.
Loren J. Blanchard, Ph.D.
President, University of Houston-Downtown