Last month, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a legislative bill into law designating Juneteenth an official state holiday, and CU Boulder recognizes the importance of the date, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day and the second independence day.
Juneteenth recognizes and celebrates the freedom and self-determination of African Americans and the end of the Civil War. It also provides us all with an opportunity to deepen our understanding of our collective history as a nation. For some, this may mean attending a community or virtual event, listening to a podcast, reading or having a conversation with classmates, colleagues, family and friends.
African American communities have celebrated Juneteenth for more than 150 years, marking the day when Union Army General Gordon Granger read aloud the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19, 1865, in the city of Galveston, Texas. Galveston was one of the last places in the United States to hear of the passage of the proclamation. In fact, it took almost two and a half years for word of the proclamation to reach the farthest corners of the then 34-state union.
Many Americans have long advocated for a national holiday. On June 17, 2021, that vision became reality when President Joe Biden signed a bill into law establishing Juneteenth as the nation’s 12th federal holiday and the first since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.
“With the stroke of a pen, President Biden gave Juneteenth its overdue recognition as a consequential moment in American history," said CU Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano following the president’s decision. "The stain of slavery will never be erased from the story of our nation, but making Juneteenth a federal holiday allows all Americans to use June 19 as a day to reflect on the long road to emancipation and the brutal sacrifices it took to get there.
“As an educator, the holiday provides further inspiration to me and to our campus to commit to anti-racism as a basic part of teaching future generations of the struggles faced by Black Americans and facilitating dialogue on campus and beyond about the hard work that remains to be done,” the chancellor said.
In recognizing Colorado’s decision to designate Juneteenth a state holiday last month, Senior Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Sonia DeLuca Fernández said, “Juneteenth is a noteworthy celebration not only for the Black community but for all of us to value U.S. history. As a place for lifelong learning, CU Boulder has a responsibility to perpetually renew our commitment to freedom and justice—understanding important legacies of both tragedy and triumph.”
Recognition of the day
Some Colorado communities have celebrated Juneteenth for decades, including in Denver’s historic Five Points neighborhood since 1953 and at the annual Colorado State Fair Parade in downtown Pueblo, where Juneteenth royalty have waved from floats or convertibles during the fair’s signature and Fiesta Day parades since the 1960s and the civil rights era.
In 2022, some government offices will close on Monday, June 20, to commemorate the Juneteenth holiday.
CU Boulder will remain open, and classes will take place in alignment with the established academic calendar for summer 2022. For the 2022 fiscal year, qualifying university employees are eligible to take a personal observance day to mark Juneteenth before Dec. 31 in consultation with supervisors. Learn more about Juneteenth as a floating holiday and how it will impact the campus community.
Learn more about Juneteenth celebrations in Boulder and in Denver. Members of the CU Boulder community will have a presence at several community events, and students, faculty and staff are welcome to join in the celebrations.
(Image: part of General Order No. 3 informing the people of Texas that "all slaves are free." Credit: National Archives Catalog)