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Juneteenth National Independence Day

Dear Northwestern community,

Yesterday, President Joe Biden signed into law the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, designating June 19 as a public holiday. This historic action came just one day after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation declaring Juneteenth an official state holiday.

Juneteenth is a day of celebration commemorating the date in 1865 on which some of the last enslaved people in Confederate states — notably, Texas — learned that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation two and a half years earlier. In December 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, abolishing slavery at the federal level.

We take particular note of Vice President Kamala Harris’ urgent reminder delivered during the White House signing ceremony: “It is not only a day of pride. It’s also a day for us to reaffirm and rededicate ourselves to action.”

Indeed, racial justice can best be secured by staying engaged with the social issues that drive positive change. Today at noon, we recognize the day with a Juneteenth Celebration: Art and Activism event, and Evanston marks the day tomorrow with a parade and celebration. We hope the Northwestern community uses Juneteenth as an opportunity not only for celebration but also for continued, focused engagement with the debates, scholarship and activism that dismantle racism.