Brandeis celebrates Juneteenth

a graphic that says "On Juneteenth" over a blue background.

This year, for the first time, Brandeis University will celebrate Juneteenth as an official holiday.

To mark the occasion, a university-hosted virtual discussion with renowned scholar and author Annette Gordon-Reed was released on Saturday, June 19 - Juneteenth. The holiday marks when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. Their arrival came more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Gordon-Reed is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard University and a celebrated author of history. Her 2009 book, "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family" won a Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction and the National Book Award. 

Her latest book, "On Juneteenth" examines the history of the holiday and Gordon-Reed's family history, which is rooted in Texas. The creation of the book was prompted by an essay she wrote for the New Yorker last year.

Gordon-Reed is joined by Brandeis assistant professor of history Abigail Cooper for the hour-long conversation on Juneteenth's origins in Texas, on June 19, 1865 — two years after slavery was abolished. Reed and Cooper will discuss how celebrating the slaves’ freedom became a tradition in Texas, and how the celebration expanded elsewhere over time. Massachusetts officially declared Juneteenth a state holiday last July. 

Along with the discussion with Gordon-Reed, Brandeis began recognizing the holiday on June 1 with a series of 19 messages from Mark Brimhall-Vargas, chief diversity officer and vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, to the university community on each day leading up to Juneteenth that explain its history and significance.


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