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URMC Celebrates Juneteenth

On Monday, June 19, Juneteenth will be recognized as an official University holiday. The University of Rochester joins many peer institutions, including Cornell and Harvard, which have already recognized Juneteenth as an employee holiday, as have many major companies. The official observation of Juneteenth reflects the university’s ongoing commitment to greater equity, diversity, and inclusion.

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What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States, more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX, and announced the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery. The former enslaved men and women in Galveston celebrated the day that they were set free, although slavery didn’t end right away. It wasn’t until the 13th Amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865 by 27 of the 36 states that slavery became officially illegal. Six of the remaining nine states ratified the amendment by 1870.

Juneteenth is also known as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, and Black Independence Day. It emphasizes Black education and achievement. It affirms the contributions of Black and African American communities to the growth of the United States while recognizing the ongoing challenges of inequity and systemic racism.

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Juneteenth FAQs

Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19th. It is the first holiday to be added to the list of federal holidays since the recognition of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday in 1983. It is also the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

The name “Juneteenth” is a blend of two words: “June” and “nineteenth.”

Juneteenth is celebrated in many ways including readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, family gatherings, cookouts and eating red-colored foods since red symbolizes sacrifice, transition, and power.

The Juneteenth flag, originally designed in 1997, is symbolic. The colors red, white, and blue echo the American flag to symbolize that the enslaved people and their descendants were Americans. The star in the middle pays homage to Texas, while the bursting "new star" on the "horizon" of the red and blue fields represents a new freedom and a new people. However, many in the Black community have adopted the Pan-African flag: red, black and green. The colors represent the blood, soil and prosperity of Africa and its people

The time period after Juneteenth is known as the “scatter,” as the formerly enslaved went in search of lost loved ones or to build a new life in other parts of the country.

In 1872, four formerly enslaved men—Richard Allen, Richard Brock, Jack Yates, and Elias Dibble—raised $800 to purchase a parcel of land for Juneteenth celebrations. They named it Emancipation Park. It is still the site of celebrations in Houston, Texas, to this day.

Juneteenth celebrations nearly died out because of Jim Crow laws. It was later revived during the civil rights movement.

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