“Juneteenth: Celebrating Progress toward racial justice” letter to the Beloit community
On June 19, 1865, two full years after Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to end slavery, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, and released the state from Confederate control, thus freeing the remaining enslaved people. The day became known as Juneteenth, and is recognized as the day when slavery finally ended in the United States.
In 2020, Beloit College added Juneteenth as a paid day off. And in 2021, for the first time, Juneteenth became a federal holiday when President Biden signed the bill Congress passed into law.
This year, Beloit College will celebrate the holiday on Monday, June 20. We encourage members of our community to take this time off to reflect on issues of equity, inclusion, and community.
As you make your plans for this “new” national holiday, I hope you and your families will take in some of the community activities in and around Beloit. Spend some time Saturday at Riverside Park or at Telfer Park, where the celebrations will include food, music, and dance throughout the day, as well as a visit from Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers.
Or pick up a book that broadens your perspective on race and racism in America. I’ve recently started reading How the Word is Passed, by Clint Smith, an Atlantic writer who journeyed to Monticello, Angola Prison in Alabama, Blandon Cemetery, and Manhattan to trace slavery’s history to the present in a searing first-person account. The book won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction in 2021.
We will all find meaning in our own ways on this wonderful day of celebration of progress toward racial justice.
Happy Juneteenth, indeed.