Today is Juneteenth and it is recognized as a special day of observance and celebration of freedom.
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth is also known as Freedom Day and it commemorates this date on June 19, 1865 when Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas with the news that slavery had ended.
This news arrived more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. As the Civil War came to a close in 1865, many black people were still enslaved and news that the war and slavery had end traveled slowly. The slow travelling of news to many is a symbol that represents the slow march to equality and justice for African Americans following the Civil War and Emancipation.
This slow march to justice and equality is an issue America still struggles with today. Much of it is a result of the decades that followed the Civil War with the enactment of Jim Crow laws, lynchings of blacks, stealing of their land and property, discriminatory housing and education policies, separate but unequal facilities, redlining, unjust laws and police violence that permeated American society. African Americans have struggled to overcome these barriers for more than 150 years.
Today, as we celebrate this day and the freedom it represents, we should be mindful of the work that needs to be done by all Americans to ensure equality and justice for all. As Social Workers, we play an important role in speaking out against injustices whenever and wherever they may occur.
It is imperative, especially in today’s polarizing political environment, that we come together, recognize and discuss the many barriers that still exist today affecting African Americans and marginalized and underserved communities.
I encourage all of you to attend Juneteenth celebration events and as lifelong learners to take time to learn the history about this day, the struggles over decades for justice, and join together in a collaborative effort to work toward making this a more just society.
Your first step in this endeavor should be attending today’s Juneteenth event sponsored by the UTA Center for African American Studies taking place in the School of Social Work at 3:30 p.m. Click here for more information.
Scott D. Ryan
Dean and Professor
School of Social Work
The University of Texas at Arlington