A&T Celebrates Historic Federal Recognition of Juneteenth

By Todd Simmons / 06/19/2021

Above: The Juneteenth flag.

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (June 18, 2021) -- Chancellor Harold L. Martin, Sr., of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, the largest and one of the oldest U.S. universities established for African Americans, issued a statement this morning celebrating passage of the National Juneteenth Independence Day Act, which recognizes the belated freeing of one of the last major populations of enslaved people in 1865.

The bill establishes June 19 as a national, federally recognized holiday for the first time.

Though President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery in 1862, it took time for news of that historic action to fan out around the country. It wasn't until the end of the Civil War more than two years later that General Order No. 3 was issued in Texas, recognizing Lincoln's proclamation and freeing some 250,000 enslaved people across that state.

"...We join with others across this country in celebrating and recognizing a moment that must have caused unspeakable joy in the hearts of so many...," said Martin. "We feel the unimaginable happiness of our ancestors in knowing that whatever else might await them, they were finally free. We recommit ourselves as a doctoral, research university to providing clarity, understanding and truthful representation of the history of race in this country that stretches back to 1619 and that has important, abiding implications and meaning for us today."

The legislation swiftly passed Congress this week -- unanimously in the U.S. Senate and with only 14 dissenting votes in the 435-member U.S. House -- and was signed into law on Thursday by President Joe Biden. While that came too late for many states, including North Carolina, to formally recognize the holiday, it is expected that most will do so in 2022 and subsequent years going forward.

N.C. A&T's own history mirrors the end of U.S. slavery. The university was established in 1891, just 26 years after the end of the Civil War, thanks to a federal act that provided for creation of public colleges in states that continued to refuse to admit Black students to their existing universities. One hundred thirty years later, A&T is the largest and top rated of the more than 100 historically black colleges and universities established in that era, as well as a nationally recognized doctoral, high research activity university.

"I enthusiastically wish each and every member of the North Carolina A&T community, our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends, a joyous, heartfelt, memorable and historic Juneteenth," Martin concluded.

Read Chancellor Martin's entire statement here.

Media Contact Information: Todd Simmons, thsimmons@ncat.edu

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