LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — The University of Louisiana at Lafayette will now officially mark Juneteenth — June 19 — as a school holiday, according to President Dr. Joseph Savoie.
Though Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year, Savoie said the university will observe the holiday on Friday, June 18. Campus will be closed, and no classes will be held.
“This is the first year the University will mark Juneteenth as an official holiday, but it is more than a ‘day off.’ Rather, it is an opportunity to reflect on our shared history and on the barriers that separate us from the more equitable society we seek,” Savoie said.
Beginning at noon on Saturday, June 19, the Stephens Hall chimes and the Victory Bell at Cajun Field will each ring 19 times to mark Juneteenth, said Savoie. The bell ringing was also held last year, according to Dr. Taniecea A. Mallery, UL Lafayette’s executive director of Strategic Initiatives and chief diversity officer.
“Juneteenth is one of the most significant moments in American history,” said Mallery. “It marked an ending and a beginning – the end of slavery in the United States, but the beginning of Black Americans’ long struggle to achieve true freedom through racial equality and social justice.”
Juneteenth is a celebration marking the official end of slavery in the U.S. On June 19, 1865, the last slaves in the U.S. learned of their freedom through the Emancipation Proclamation. While the proclamation had been issued by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln two years earlier, it wasn’t until Union soldiers came to the South to enforce the order that many slaves learned about it. Texas was the last former Confederate state to have the proclamation announced. The adoption of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution officially abolished slavery in the United States in December 1865.
The initiative to have Juneteenth as a school holiday started as part of UL Lafayette’s Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence, devised by the school’s Office for Campus Diversity and the Diversity Advisory Council, a group of faculty, staff, students and community partners. It was approved in late 2019.