Juneteenth Flag

Commemorating Juneteenth on campus and across Cleveland

Case Western Reserve offers events, resources; university to close June 18

“The people of Texas are informed that,
in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States,
all slaves are free.”

Those words from Union Army Major General Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, marked the official end of slavery in the state—nearly three years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

More than 155 years later, June 19 is known as Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the freedom of enslaved people across the United States.

For the second consecutive year, Case Western Reserve’s leaders are closing the university for a day to give the campus community the opportunity to reflect on the significance of the day and learn more about slavery and racism in America. This year the Juneteenth observance is tomorrow, Friday, June 18.

“I believe Case Western Reserve has a responsibility and a duty to commemorate Juneteenth,” Interim President Scott Cowen explained. “As an institution whose mission is to improve and enrich people’s lives through education, it is crucial that we take the time to acknowledge and reflect on the long-term legacies of slavery and to find ways that we can better work toward a truly equitable and inclusive future for all Black and Brown Americans.”

Added Provost Ben Vinson III: “This historical day of remembrance is one that is vital to our nation, and to our national ongoing saga of race relations.”

Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved a bill to make Juneteenth a national holiday, and yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives added its endorsement by a 415-14 vote. The measure now will go to the White House for President Joe Biden’s signature.

Meanwhile, at noon today, the Office for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity (OIDEO) will host “Shades of Freedom: A pre- and post-Juneteenth Conversation.” In this free, public presentation, OIDEO Vice President Robert L. Solomon and Senior Director for Faculty and Institutional Diversity Heather E. Burton will explore the journey of freedom in America for African-descended people from 1619 to today, including the highs and lows along the way and where the road can lead for the future. Registration is required.

The university has compiled and posted several Juneteenth resources on Case Western Reserve’s Race and Justice website, including videos on race, slavery and freedom featuring faculty and administrators’ teachings and personal perspectives, as well as a calendar of campus and community events.

“Pausing to commemorate, think, and interact with one another at this crucial time,” Vinson said, “is part of the essence of the work of a university.”

In addition, multiple events are taking place near campus and across Cleveland to commemorate Juneteenth—such as Cleveland Public Library’s week of cultural education programs and activities, Juneteenth Freedom Rides’ bicycle tour of University Circle, a re-enactment of the 1865 Juneteenth emancipation in the African American Cultural Garden, the city-wide Freedom Fest, and a range of neighborhood and community events.

See the full calendar.