Juneteenth, celebrated annually in the United States on June 19, is the oldest commemoration of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. Officially recognized as a federal holiday in 2021, Samford University celebrates its significance in our nation’s history.
Also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day and Liberation Day, Juneteenth recognizes the date in 1865 when Union Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas, with the news that the Civil War had ended and that enslaved people were now free. This announcement came more than 2.5 years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Juneteenth offers the opportunity to acknowledge this monumental aspect of U.S. history, celebrate the liberation of the enslaved ancestors of African Americans, and work together to advance racial healing, equity and justice in our communities as we also honor and embrace Black culture through its art and history.
In advance of recognizing the day with a university holiday for the Samford community, President Beck A. Taylor sat down with Isaac Cooper ’12, chairman of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute’s Board of Directors, to discuss Juneteenth’s significance and the role Birmingham plays in addressing social justice and systemic issues.
“A lot of the inertia around Juneteenth was ‘where is my family now that we’re free?,’ ‘how can we be together, eat together, grow together, now that we have this ability to convene?,” Cooper said. “We see this national holiday as a way to not only acknowledge the historical moments, but also equip those who are interested in addressing systemic issues that oppress those who may not be able to speak for themselves.”
Samford’s Office of Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives (ODII) invites the Samford community to “A Taste of Juneteenth: Fill Your Mind, Body and Soul” on Tuesday, June 21, 12:30 until 1:30 p.m., on Ben Brown Plaza. Ahinee Amamoo, associate professor in Samford’s School of Public Health, will share a brief history of the holiday and its purpose.
In addition, ODII encourages the Samford community to take advantage of the holiday to engage in events throughout Birmingham and become immersed in this history.
Denise Gregory, associate provost of student success and diversity and inclusion, said, “The opportunity to celebrate Juneteenth alongside our community members is an amazing way to make visible an aspect of American history that has been neglected and overlooked. Juneteenth commemorates a manifestation of true freedom for all Americans and understanding the history of this occasion allows for deeper appreciation of diverse cultures.”