Today we mark an important day in history. On June 19, 1865, United States Army General Gordon Granger officially announced via general order that slavery had been abolished —more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth was established to mark this important event.
General Order No. 3, delivered by Major General Granger stated:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
The words absolute equality of personal rights were meant to guarantee freedom for the enslaved people. However, as we know, this has not been the reality for African Americans now and throughout history. Injustice and systemic racism continue. However, we stand with our African American students, faculty, staff, and alumnae to disrupt the status quo of injustice and fight for freedoms that have been systematically and structurally denied.
The celebration of Juneteenth represents a critical turning point for our country. It is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. The legacy of Juneteenth acknowledges a hard history while empowering our girls to be advocates for change. As we near the 2021-2022 school year, we look to our faculty to continue to convey the history of racism, injustice, along with our Catholic teachings on the dignity of every human being.
I am also humbled and grateful for the profound conversations about race and injustice that are occurring at Ursuline Academy and our resolve to work together to bring about transformative and meaningful change. It won’t be easy, and for many, it will be uncomfortable. But we must do everything within our power to rise above the scourge of racism.
At Ursuline, the discussions around race and injustice have a firm foundation of support, which indicates a positive step forward for our community. Following in the footsteps of the Ursuline women who came before us, we must proudly claim our trailblazing spirit and do our part to lead this change. Let us continue to listen, learn, and love.
Dr. Karen G. Jakuback