University News

Wishing You a Happy Juneteenth

On Thursday, June 17, Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy sent an email wishing the campus community a happy Juneteenth holiday and acknowledging the work of Amilcar Shabazz, professor of history and Africana studies in the W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies, in leading the effort to make Juneteenth a state holiday.

That email is as follows:

Dear Campus Community,

I wish you all a very happy Juneteenth this coming Saturday! This very special day, which has been celebrated as Freedom Day, Liberation Day or Emancipation Day in years past, commemorates June 19, 1865, the day when the enslaved Africans and African Americans held in Galveston, Texas learned of their freedom, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

This year’s celebration is made even more special because later today President Biden is expected to sign legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday. It is also the first time Juneteenth will be recognized as a state holiday here in Massachusetts. Our own Amilcar Shabazz, professor of history and Africana studies in the W. E. B. DuBois Department of Afro-American Studies, led the effort to make Juneteenth a state holiday, and State Representative Bud Williams of Springfield, a UMass Amherst alumnus, introduced the legislation, signed by Governor Charlie Baker, that made it official.

Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of chattel slavery in the United States and celebrates the hard-won freedom of African Americans, is a milestone in our country’s long journey toward equity and justice, but it is also a reminder of how much farther we have to go. From the time of our nation’s founding, with the inspiring words of the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, realizing the inalienable rights of African Americans has been elusive.

Today, confronted with stark inequities in the criminal justice system, educational and economic injustice, and concerted efforts in many states to restrict voting, I am hopeful that the recognition of Juneteenth, raises awareness of the work we must all do to create a more perfect union and reinforces within us all the essential truth that Black Lives Matter.

As we embark upon this long holiday weekend, I hope you will all treasure your time with friends and family, and on Saturday, June 19 you will reflect on the significance of this momentous day. Happy Juneteenth!


Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy