Brandman University observes Juneteenth

June 21, 2021

The following content first appeared on the news page while UMass Global operated under its former name of Brandman University.

Brandman University invited faculty and staff to pay tribute to Juneteenth, which celebrates African Americans’ emancipation several years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863. Enslaved people living in Texas learned of slavery’s defeat on June 19, 1865 and in the years thereafter, freed people established the tradition of singling out June 19 to celebrate emancipation.
Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. provides context for Juneteenth in his blog posted to the PBS website. Note this blog contains a racial slur and other language that may be offensive.

“While national black leaders continued to debate the importance of remembering other milestone anniversaries, the freed people of Texas went about the business of celebrating their local version of Emancipation Day. For them, Juneteenth was, from its earliest incarnations, as Hayes Turner and others have recorded, a past that was 'usable' as an occasion for gathering lost family members, measuring progress against freedom and inculcating rising generations with the values of self-improvement and racial uplift. This was accomplished through readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, religious sermons and spirituals, the preservation of slave food delicacies (always at the center: the almighty barbecue pit), as well as the incorporation of new games and traditions, from baseball to rodeos and, later, stock car races and overhead flights.”
Texas in 1979 passed the first state legislation to formalize Emancipation Day, popularly known as Juneteenth, as a state holiday, according to the Library of Congress. Now, there is growing momentum at the national level and in more states to honor Juneteenth as an official holiday.
Today President Biden signed a bill to enshrine Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Coverage is available from the Washington Post. As reported by the Associated Press, the federal government has not approved any new holidays since the 1983 addition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Recently this year, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill adding Juneteenth to the Evergreen State’s calendar of official holidays. As also reported by the Associated Press, the Washington state holiday will go into effect next year. An Oregon bill that would establish Juneteenth as a state holiday passed both houses of the state's legislature early this spring, according to OPB. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed the bill on Saturday, the anniversary of Juneteenth, according to KATU-TV.
California lawmakers adopted a measure to commemorate Juneteenth in 2003, according to the California Historical Society. The day is not, however, a state holiday.
“The growing public awareness of Juneteenth shows that the work of building an America that is truly a place ‘with liberty and justice for all’ is a continuing process,” Chancellor Gary Brahm said. “Celebrating the end of slavery demands we acknowledge the injustices African Americans endured before and after the emancipation. Learning more about this history motivates us to strive for better futures for all Americans.”
Brandman’s Juneteenth commemorations began in 2020 when the university invited faculty and staff to celebrate after working a partial day. On Friday, June 18, faculty and staff again had additional time for themselves and their loved ones, since the work day wrapped at noon. Brandman employees who would like to share information related to Juneteenth events and resources may relay what they know to the Office of Equity and Inclusion by sending an email to [email protected].

"This week, after the 156 years since Juneteenth that mark an emancipation of enslaved Black Americans, the US Senate unanimously passed a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday. The university’s return to observing Juneteenth is an additional step towards advocacy and healing," said Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion, Chief Diversity Officer Jalin Johnson.

Learn more about Juneteenth:

  • The National Museum of African American History and Culture presents an online Juneteenth exhibit featuring a history of the commemoration, a recorded performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” Freedman’s Bureau records, a Texas-inspired menu for those celebrating at the table, and several additional sources of information.      
  • Into the Fire,” the third episode of PBS’ “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross,” is written and narrated by Harvard historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. The episode centers on African Americans’ roles in the Civil War, emancipation and Reconstruction. (Note: This documentary includes graphic images and the use of a racial slur.)
  • The Daily Breeze, from Hermosa Beach, frames its Juneteenth coverage with the story of Bruce’s Beach. Bruce’s Beach is the historic site of a Black-owned resort that Manhattan Beach officials took from its owners in 1924. State legislation is now pending that would clear the way for the property can be restored to family ownership.

The Washington Post has additional coverage of the recent congressional actions to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.

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