Observation of Juneteenth

June 16, 2021

Dear Gonzaga University Community Members,

This year, Gonzaga joins the many institutions across the nation observing Juneteenth – June 19 – which marks the date in 1865 when Union soldiers, led by Gen. Gordon Granger, informed enslaved Black/African Americans in Galveston, Texas, the Civil War had ended and that they were free from enslavement. This notification came two and a half years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. “Juneteenth” or “Freedom Day” was first recognized in 1965, and today animates the significance of reconciliation and racial justice.

Bearing witness to the senseless killings of unarmed Black/African Americans and racial inequities highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are presented with an opportunity for intense reflection on our nation’s past and the chance to create a vision for an antiracist future. Juneteenth also represents a time to celebrate Black/African American history, empowerment, and achievement, acknowledging the multitude of outstanding and impactful contributions of Black/African Americans have made to our university, city, state, country, and world.

Specifically at Gonzaga, we also want to acknowledge our Black/African American student leaders, especially members of the Black Student Union, who are engaged in activism and self-advocacy to make a difference on our campus. In the fall 2020 semester, the Black Student Union group submitted a list of demands and a contract indicating critical actions for our institution to consider in its work to support an inclusive and equitable campus climate. Over the spring 2021 semester, administration addressed many of our students’ concerns, while acknowledging that there are still steps to take and more work to be done. The commitment to eliminating racism and fostering racial equity at Gonzaga is firm, in words and deeds, and we are committed to ensuring actionable and continued change. We will continue moving forward in cultivating a university culture where all members feel safe, respected, valued, and supported.

Gonzaga University has been intentional in weaving diversity, equity, and inclusion into the fabric of the university and institutional practices – in academics, in ministry, in development of the whole person. Let us embrace and honor Juneteenth as we do all we can to ensure a university climate that lives up to our mission and values and advances a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and supportive university culture.

I encourage you to learn more or deepen your historical and contemporary understanding of Juneteenth, and the accomplishments of Black/African Americans across time. Here are several opportunities.

Jesuit Resources

“Eyes to See: An Anti-Racist Examen” 

Community Events and Programs

Sincerely yours,

Thayne M. McCulloh, D.Phil.