- Primary sources cited, including direct quotes: Juneteenth.com, Juneteenth University, Realizing Racial Equity and Justice at WSU Vancouver
WSU Vancouver acknowledges Juneteenth. On June 19, 1865 the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two-and-a-half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation—which became official Jan. 1, 1863.
A great way to understand Juneteenth is to compare it to Memorial Day versus Independence Day. Independence Day (July 4) honors a single incident that happened only on July 4, 1776. Memorial Day is a symbolic date that commemorates all military deaths regardless of when they happened. Likewise, Juneteenth is a symbolic date that commemorates emancipation without regard for date or location. Essentially, it celebrates the end of slavery, but it does not “mark” the end of slavery in the U.S.
In fact, slavery is still legal in U.S. correctional institutions. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. This means that incarcerated persons have no constitutional rights in this area; they can be forced into enslaved labor as punishment for their crimes.
Juneteenth today, celebrates African American liberation, achievement and continuous self- and collective development. As it takes on a more national, symbolic and even global perspective, the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten, for all the roots tie back to this fertile soil from which a national day of pride is growing. Getting involved and supporting Juneteenth celebrations creates new bonds of friendship and understanding among us. This indeed brightens our future–and that is the spirit of Juneteenth.
WSU Vancouver promotes an ethical and socially just society through an intentional commitment to inclusion, equity, and diversity. Below are opportunities and resources for VanCoug students, staff, faculty and external partners to build a community of equity, justice, empowerment and love in recognition and celebration of Juneteenth.
- What does Juneteenth mean to you? Submit your affirmations, reflections and creations to the WSU Vancouver Gallery of Affirmations.
- Use your IDI and BaCE tools to build equity infrastructure, disrupt systemic inequities and impact university processes, practices, policies and people.
- Select books from the recommended reading list in the Office of Equity and Diversity, including titles by Black authors and suggested children’s books.
- Go to a state park for free: Juneteenth has been designated as a “Discover Pass free day.” On Juneteenth, you can explore Washington state parks and recreation lands for free.
- Reflect on Juneteenth with poems from Poets.org.