Juneteenth to be Celebrated During Community Friday

June 17, 2020

This year, June 19 commemorates the 155th anniversary of the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, Texas. We will observe Juneteenth during the Community Meeting time for faculty and staff from noon to 2 p.m. on Friday, June 19, 2020.

Grinnell has observed Juneteenth in past years with an on-campus gathering and a time in community. Current conditions, of course, require a different type of observation. As part of our Juneteenth commemoration this year, we will create the opportunity to watch the documentary “I Am Not Your Negro,” based on James Baldwin's unfinished manuscript Remember This House. Narrated by actor Samuel L. Jackson and directed by Raoul Peck, this 2016 film explores the history of racism in the United States through Baldwin's reflections on three murdered civil rights leaders: Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, and Malcolm X. President Raynard S. Kington will provide opening remarks for the film.

Raoul Peck’s film captures James Baldwin’s commitment to tell the story of America — what it is and what it could be — through the lives of these three leaders who died while working to make this nation truer to its stated values. The documentary intermixes Baldwin’s search, the words of the three civil rights leaders, and images of contemporary protests for civil rights. The documentary challenges us to consider how far we have yet to go in the struggle for civil rights, and ultimately to achieve full and lasting racial justice in this country.

President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1,1863. However, enslaved Texans weren’t made aware of their freedom until June 19, 1865, when the Union Army took control of Texas. Founded by newly emancipated African Americans, Juneteenth commemorates this day and is now celebrated in a variety of ways across the country. Iowa was the 7th of the 46 states to officially recognize Juneteenth, and there will be virtual gatherings across the state joining others around the country. We look forward to our own gathering, and to the opportunity to reflect and connect institutional and individual action to the continuing work of anti-racism and systemic change.

Those who want to learn more about Juneteenth are invited to begin with these resources and pursue further learning:

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