What Is Juneteenth?
Andrea Taylor (COM’68), BU’s senior diversity officer, on the holiday’s origins and why it’s important to commemorate it now
Last month, Boston University announced that it was adding Juneteenth to the University calendar as an official holiday. Celebrated annually on June 19 (BU is observing it on Friday, June 18, this year, because the 19th is a Saturday), the holiday commemorates the date in 1865 that the last enslaved people in the United States learned that slavery had ended. Currently, 47 states—including Massachusetts—have adopted Juneteenth as a holiday. The US Senate voted unanimously on Tuesday to make it a federal holiday, and on Wednesday the US House of Representatives voted 415 to 14 to approve it. It now goes to the president to be signed.
We asked longtime civil rights activist, former BU trustee, and former president and CEO of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Andrea Taylor (COM’68), BU’s senior diversity officer, to explain the history behind Juneteenth, the lessons we can learn from it, and how its observance as a holiday factors into the current national conversation around racial justice and equality.