Celebrating Diversity: Juneteenth Commemoration

The message below is from UMass Memorial Health’s African American Employee Resource Group to commemorate Juneteenth.

As June 19, 2021, approaches, UMass Memorial Health is taking time to pause and commemorate “Juneteenth,” or June 19, 1865, when the last of the enslaved black people in confederate states in the United States gained their freedom. As an organization, we recognize that many of our caregivers, of varying races and ethnicities, recognize the importance of this day in American history. Below is information about Juneteenth’s legacy with links to resources and celebrations.

Black Heritage Juneteenth Festival Worcester 2021 (excerpt from Black Heritage website)

June 19 Juneteenth Freedom DayJuneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19 that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that all enslaved people in the United States of America were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation — which had become official January 1, 1863. To mark the anniversary of their liberation and honor the two additional years of slave labor endured by enslaved people in Texas, our ancestors celebrated Juneteenth, also called Freedom Day and Emancipation Day. Many African Americans celebrated Juneteenth in the same way that white Americans generally celebrate the Fourth of July.

For more information about this year’s Juneteenth celebration, visit the Black Heritage Festival Worcester website.

Juneteenth Flag Raising in Worcester: Visit the Worcester Telegram & Gazette for news coverage of the Juneteenth flag being raised at City Hall in Worcester.

A Juneteenth celebration at Eastwood Park in Austin, Texas (1900)

Grace Murray Stephenson/Austin History Center, Pictured: “A Juneteenth celebration at Eastwoods Park in Austin, Texas (1900).”

Lastly, we would like to share a quote from literary icon and activist Maya Angelou, which emphasizes why telling our story and sharing our history is important for our country:

“Hold those things that tell your history and protect them. During slavery, who was able to read or write or keep anything? The ability to have somebody to tell your story to is so important. It says: ‘I was here. I may be sold tomorrow. But you know I was here.’ Won’t it be wonderful when Black history and Native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U.S. history.”