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Juneteenth: A Moment to Reflect

June 17, 2021

Dear Saint Louis University community members, 

As our week winds down, the SLU community looks forward to a new three-day weekend. 

Friday, the start of this long weekend, is more than a day off of work; it is a university holiday commemorating Juneteenth, June 19th, the day in 1865 when Union soldiers accepted the surrender of the last active Confederate military units in Texas. That final surrender was accompanied by General Order 3, an announcement that more than 250,000 enslaved persons in Texas were freed by presidential decree, the Emancipation Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln.  

The official abolition of slaveholding was made permanent by the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on December 6, 1865.  

Juneteenth recognizes the practical end of slavery in our country after more than four years of bloody strife. Juneteenth recognizes that all Black men, women and children enslaved in Texas would finally be liberated on paper. As we know, the full fruits of freedom for them, for all who were once enslaved, and their descendants elsewhere in our country would be delayed time and again by institutional and structural oppression.  

Juneteenth calls us to remember –– and to recommit ourselves to –– the ongoing pursuit of equity and racial justice.  

We are reminded that the historic deprivation of the right to self-determination continues to challenge our society today. Our tradition as a Catholic and Jesuit university compels us to recognize the dignity of all created in the image and likeness of God and to act justly and passionately on behalf of those who are most burdened by racism.  

Last year on Juneteenth, Dr. Jonathan Smith, SLU’s Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement, shared the video below inviting all of us to reflect upon the challenges of our day. It remains a timeless and inspiring resource. 

We are also reminded of the three questions of the Examen of St. Ignatius –– What have I done?/What am I doing?/What ought I do? –– as we observe Juneteenth, reckoning not only with a historical legacy but what we might be called to do for and with others. 

We invite you to engage yourself and others in dialogue and efforts towards ending institutional, structural and interpersonal racism.  

We also invite you to watch “Eyes to See: An Anti-Racism Examen” developed by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities in response to this past, most challenging of years.  

You might make time to support local, Black-owned businesses or, if you are here in St. Louis, participate in the Celebration and Resource Fair on Saturday, June 19th. If you find yourself on SLU’s campus this weekend, look up and see the Juneteenth flags flying on our St. Louis campuses.  

Have a blessed weekend. 

The Office of Diversity & Community Engagement