UL Lafayette declares Juneteenth an official university holiday for first time ever

Beginning at 12 p.m. on Saturday, June 19, 2021, the Stephens Hall chimes and the Victory Bell...
Beginning at 12 p.m. on Saturday, June 19, 2021, the Stephens Hall chimes and the Victory Bell at Cajun Field will each ring 19 times to mark Juneteenth.(DOUG DUGAS | ULL)
Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 10:35 AM CDT
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LAFAYETTE, La. (KSLA) - For the first time ever, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette will observe Juneteenth as an official university holiday.

Juneteenth (June 19) marks the end of slavery in the U.S. On June 19, 1865, enslaved Black people living in Galveston, Texas finally learned they were free. President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation more than two years earlier, but slaves in then-Confederate states remained unaware until Union soldiers arrived to enforce the order. Texas was the last Confederate state to have the proclamation announced. Then, the adoption of the 13th Amendment officially abolished slavery in December of 1865.

This year, Juneteenth falls on a Saturday, so the university will recognize the holiday on June 18. Campus will be closed and no classes will be held, Dr. Joseph Savoie, university president, announced Thursday, June 10.

“This is the first year the university will mark Juneteenth as an official holiday, but it is more than a ‘day off.’ Rather, it is an opportunity to reflect on our shared history and on the barriers that separate us from the more equitable society we seek,” Dr. Savoie said.

Starting at 12 p.m. Saturday, the Stephens Hall chimes and the Victory Bell at Cajun Field will ring 19 times to mark Juneteenth.

“Juneteenth is one of the most significant moments in American history. It marked an ending and a beginning – the end of slavery in the United States, but the beginning of Black Americans’ long struggle to achieve true freedom through racial equality and social justice,” said Dr. Taniecea Mallery, executive director of strategic initiatives and chief diversity officer.

More than 150 years later, Juneteenth continues to resonate as a “day of reflection,” Dr. Mallery says.

“Observing Juneteenth offers the university a moment to acknowledge the challenges Black Americans still face. We can honor that struggle by affirming our commitment to creating an environment that respects – and draws strength from – difference,” Dr. Mallery said.

Dr. Savoie encourages everyone to read the university’s Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence, which was approved in late 2019. He also asks the university community to consider ways they can help achieve the goals of the plan, and how they can foster an environment on campus that finds strengths in differences in which everyone is welcomed and valued.

“Juneteenth offers an opportunity for the university to affirm its commitment to building such a community,” he said.

Click here to read Dr. Savoie’s full message to the ULL community.

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