Dear Cooper Union:
This Saturday is Juneteenth, a national celebration that commemorates the day – June 19, 1865 – when Union troops from the North reached Galveston, Texas, the westernmost state of the then-Confederacy, with news of the Civil War’s end and the end of slavery in the South. The last enslaved people in the Confederacy were finally freed, though it was a full two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and still six months shy of the passage of the 13th Amendment, which would officially abolish slavery in the United States.
Freedom came with uncertainty and risk in those early days. Segregation and continued risk followed, and more than 150 years later, grave inequities and injustices remain. Last summer, we established Juneteenth as an official Cooper Union holiday. I encourage you to celebrate Juneteenth as the historic event that it is. For some that might mean participating in events that are happening in places around the country; for others, it may mean time together with family and friends to share stories handed down over generations; for others, it’s a time of reflection; and for still others, it presents an opportunity to further learning and deepen our understanding of Juneteenth’s significance as a marker of freedom, progress, contributions, and aspirations of Black Americans.
Our academic deans and Student Affairs team have curated Juneteenth readings and resources, including commemorations happening throughout the US, which you can find here on www.cooper.edu. We encourage you to take time to digest and reflect on these resources. I will be with my family in Charleston, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. We plan to select a few readings from the resource page and reflect on the importance of Juneteenth while we are there.
Freedom is experienced in so many ways, and there is still so much work to do to ensure it can be experienced equally by all. I hope each of us can reflect on Juneteenth and identify ways in which each of us can advance a free and equitable society for all.