In a time for reflection, the TC community virtually gathered this week to commemorate Juneteenth — the day in 1865 that enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, were finally freed after Union soldiers travelled to the state to formally enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. In observance of the significance of this day, the College revised its calendar to include Juneteenth as a paid holiday in 2020 and the United States is now set to formally recognize it as a federal holiday.
“By celebrating Juneteenth, we also were challenging ourselves to honor the spirit of Juneteenth throughout the year by becoming more committed and effective anti-racists in word, work, and deed,” wrote TC President Thomas Bailey; Stephanie Rowley, Provost, Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs; and Janice Robinson, Vice President for Diversity & Community Affairs, in a message to the community this week. “Let us seize every opportunity to learn, to grow and to act toward fighting racism and creating a smarter, healthier, more equitable and more just world.”
Let us seize every opportunity to learn, to grow and to act toward fighting racism and creating a smarter, healthier, more equitable and more just world.”
That work continued at the first annual TC Community Juneteenth Celebration. Organized by the College’s Office for Diversity & Community Affairs, the virtual gathering included reflections from members of the community.
A “celebration of culture and community,” in the words of Rowley, the event presented a moment to “think about the hope that we can get to a better world with more love, care, compassion and liberation.”
TC’s recognition of Juneteenth “symbolizes our commitment to the many things we stand for, including social justice and equal rights for all,” said Trevor Isaac, a Human Resources Generalist, one of several members of the TC community who shared their thoughts.
Watch the first annual Teachers College Community Juneteenth Celebration.
Community members were joined by Annette Gordon-Reed, national historian and the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard, and the author of the historical memoir On Juneteenth, which examines the history of Texas through Gordon-Reed’s personal stories.
“This holiday, which commemorates a specific day, was not meant to suggest that everything would be okay. But it was just the beginning of the struggle,” said Gordon-Reed, whose 16 books include the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W.W. Norton, 2008).
This holiday, which commemorates a specific day, was not meant to suggest that everything would be okay. But it was just the beginning of the struggle.”
During her keynote remarks, Gordon-Reed reflected on celebrating the holiday during her childhood in Texas, where the day has long been celebrated by people of color. Now, the broader embrace of Juneteenth “is something I wouldn’t have dreamed of as a little girl. But I am glad we are at this point because this is not something to make us look backward but a reminder of the work we need to do.”
In addition to remarks from Gordon-Reed, the event included a performance by Darryl Jordan, (Ed.D. ’21, Music & Music Education), who opened the observance with a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
The TC Community Choir concluded the commemoration with a virtual performance of “Still I Rise.”