Juneteenth message from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion

Fellow Mustangs,

This weekend marks the annual commemoration of “Juneteenth.” Also known as “Liberation Day,” this Texan contribution to the U.S. calendar celebrates the day that Gen. Gordon Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, Texas, and proclaimed chattel slavery outlawed in the state.

President Joe Biden signed into law on Thursday legislation that will make Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Juneteenth is a celebration of the beginning of the long march toward weaving the African American experience into the larger tapestry of American history. Celebrated by communities around the country, thousands of Americans from all walks of life will engage in the many activities associated with the day. They will play baseball, read poetry and famous speeches by renowned African American writers, listen to jazz and spirituals, and, of course, eat the very Texan traditional meal of barbecue.

As a child growing up in the American South, one of my favorite traditions of Juneteenth was the singing ofLift Every Voice and Sing, written by Harlem Renaissance great James Weldon Johnson. Set to music composed with his brother for Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, the words both describe an experience that is particular to African Americans and reflects the significant promise and beauty of the American experiment. The first verse says:

Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
’Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on ’til victory is won.

As we move deeper into a summer in which we are again free to embrace our loved ones and rekindle the joy of connection, let us not forget the dark days and nights we have suffered over the last year to reach this point. More important, let us resolve to face each new day as Mustangs, moving forward together. That’s the true beauty of Juneteenth: the call to begin anew in unity.

Dr. Maria Dixon Hall
Chief Diversity Officer and
Senior Advisor to the President for Cultural Intelligence