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Chancellor Milliken's statement on Juneteenth
On June 19, 1865 – 155 years ago today – Union soldiers arrived in Galveston to inform the public of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War. Though Lincoln had signed the document on January 1, 1863, it was two and a half years before the nearly quarter-million slaves living in Texas benefited.
To many Americans, slavery may have seemed like something that happened a long time ago that has nothing to do with here and now. Today is a good day to remember that for many Black Americans, slavery isn’t just a subject they learned about in school, it’s part of their family history, and it was followed by a century of Jim Crow laws and forced segregation. In fact, we are all challenged by its legacy today.
Slavery ended in Texas only 16 years before The University of Texas was founded in 1881, and ten years after that, right there in Galveston, the UT Medical Branch campus was opened. But it wasn’t until 1956 that Black undergraduates were admitted to The University of Texas.
In 1980, Texas made Juneteenth a state holiday – the first state to do so. But since long before that, it has been a day to celebrate, not just freedom, but in the words of Minkah Makalani, assistant professor of African and African diaspora studies at UT Austin, “blackness and black life displayed in all its complexity and dynamism and diversity."
Juneteenth has taken on a new resonance this year. Many people are only now coming to the realization that while slavery is gone, systemic racism and its effects are not. I hope you’ll join me today in reflecting on the contributions and sacrifices Black Americans have made to this country – from before it formally existed through today. And let’s challenge ourselves to do all we can to make equality, justice, and opportunity a reality for every American.