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History of Juneteenth

National History

{{youtube:medium:right|w6rziFFA7F8}}Juneteenth has been celebrated in communities throughout the United States of America since the early part of the 20th century. While not recognized as a federal holiday, the observance of June 19, 1865, as the African-American Emancipation Day, also called Freedom Day, has spread across the United States and beyond. It marks the day on which Union soldiers brought news about the Emancipation Proclamation to Texas. While Juneteenth celebrates freedom, it also highlights community, education and achievement in the African-American community.

History at William & Mary

A committee of community members, faculty, staff and students chaired by Chief Diversity Officer Chon Glover has been meeting since fall 2019 to plan the inaugural celebration in 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that celebration was postponed until 2021. Because of ongoing health and safety precautions around COVID-19, the university’s first Juneteenth celebration will now take place virtually on June 19, 2021. W&M’s first in-person Juneteenth event is expected to be celebrated in 2022.

The committee's efforts coincided with planning underway for the university's Memorial to the Enslaved. The university hosted an international competition in 2018 to solicit ideas for the memorial’s concept, and the winner was announced in April 2019. A finalized design concept was announced in 2020. Work is expected to begin on the memorial in May 2021. When completed, the memorial and surrounding area will reimagine the Jamestown Road pathway to the university’s Historic Campus, positioned just across the street from the Office of Undergraduate Admission.

The memorial is part of W&M’s continuing efforts to more fully recognize the vital contributions of African Americans to the university. The idea for the memorial came from the Lemon Project, a long-term research effort to explore the university’s history with slavery and its ongoing relationship with the African-American community. Juneteenth is another extension of those collective efforts.