In the University of Tennessee System, we aspire to strengthen an environment of excellence for all faculty, staff, and students as part of our BE ONE UT values. At UT Southern, excellence includes our commitment to both access and engagement. We strive to ensure access to our educational programs to all individuals from all backgrounds and perspectives, and we work with our current and future students, faculty, and staff to foster engagement with the University, with peers and colleagues, and with the world around us. Adherence to any one worldview is not a prerequisite to success at UT Southern (see Viewpoint Diversity), and our efforts in the areas of access and inclusion, and engagement and learning are always aimed to help the students, faculty, and staff at UT Southern succeed.
With access and engagement being key components to academic and community success, the University of Tennessee System is doing its part by creating an environment where everyone is welcomed, included, and feels a sense of belonging. We encourage you to take time to celebrate our rich and diverse backgrounds. Remember, “Inclusion Begins with I, and Always Needs U!”
Celebrated on June 19, Juneteenth is a national holiday to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved blacks in the United States. While the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in Confederate states in 1863, it was not until more than two years later that many enslaved Black people in Texas were told that the order had freed them.
The state of Tennessee has officially recognized Juneteenth as a legal state holiday. Thank you to Gov. Bill Lee and our Tennessee General Assembly for passing this meaningful legislation. As a result of this state recognition, the University of Tennessee System offices, campuses, and institutes will be closed on June 19, 2023. This holiday provides us an opportunity to honor the present and reflect on our shared history and tradition.
Brief History of Juneteenth
Thank you to Juneteenth.com, “History of Juneteenth,” for the excerpts below:
Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. Whatever the reasons, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.
One of General Granger’s first orders of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3 which began most significantly with:
“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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”
The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. Recounting the memories of that great day in June of 1865 and its festivities would serve as motivation as well as a release from the growing pressures encountered in their new territories. The celebration of June 19th was coined “Juneteenth” and grew with more participation from descendants. The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date.
A range of activities were provided to entertain the masses, many of which continue in tradition today. Rodeos, fishing, barbecuing and baseball are just a few of the typical Juneteenth activities you may witness today. Juneteenth almost always focused on education and self improvement. Thus, often guest speakers are brought in and the elders are called upon to recount the events of the past. Prayer services were also a major part of these celebrations.
Certain foods became popular and subsequently synonymous with Juneteenth celebrations such as strawberry soda-pop. More traditional and just as popular was the barbecuing, through which Juneteenth participants could share in the spirit and aromas that their ancestors – the newly emancipated African Americans, would have experienced during their ceremonies. Hence, the barbecue pit is often established as the center of attention at Juneteenth celebrations.
Food was abundant because everyone prepared a special dish. Meats such as lamb, pork and beef which were not available everyday were brought on this special occasion. A true Juneteenth celebrations left visitors well satisfied and with enough conversation to last until the next.
Most of the festivities found themselves out in rural areas around rivers and creeks that could provide for additional activities such as fishing, horseback riding and barbecues. Often church grounds were the site for such activities. Eventually, as African Americans became land owners, land was donated and dedicated for these festivities. For decades these annual celebrations flourished, growing continuously with each passing year. In Booker T. Washington Park, as many as 20,000 African Americans once attended during the course of a week, making the celebration one of the state’s largest.
On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator. The successful passage of this bill marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition. Edwards has since actively sought to spread the observance of Juneteenth all across America.
Today, Juneteenth is enjoying a phenomenal growth rate within communities and organizations throughout the country. Institutions such as the Smithsonian, the Henry Ford Museum and others have begun sponsoring Juneteenth-centered activities. In recent years, a number of local and national Juneteenth organizations have arisen to promote and cultivate knowledge and appreciation of African American history and culture.
On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
Juneteenth today celebrates African American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. As it takes on a more national, symbolic and even global perspective, the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten, for all of the roots tie back to this fertile soil from which a national day of pride is growing.
Thank you to USA Today, “Wondering how to teach your kids (and yourself) about Juneteenth?” for the recommendations below:
- “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism” by Edward E. Baptist
- “Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America” by W. Caleb McDaniel
- “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
- “On Juneteenth” by Annette Gordon-Reed
- “They Were Her Property” by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers
- “Stony the Road” by Henry Louis Gates Jr.
- “The Water Dancer” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead
- “My Vanishing Country” by Bakari Sellers
- “We Were Eight Years in Power” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- “Black Pain” by Terrie Williams
- “The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin
- “Here I Stand” by Paul Robeson
- “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson
- “The Strange Career of Jim Crow” by C. Vann Woodward
- “Mirror to America” by John Hope Franklin
Request Support, Training, or Make a Report
It is our hope to provide UT Southern with relevant, helpful, and timely resources for learning, training, thinking.
If you are interested in education or training on a particular topic, please contact us! University employees may also want to explore voluntary trainings available on-demand via K@TE.
All University employees will be contacted about completed training regarding non-discrimination requirements of federal and state laws.
If you have concerns about an incident regarding discrimination or other behavior inconsistent with UT values, please contact us.
What is Bias?
The University of Tennessee Southern is committed to maintaining a safe environment grounded in civility and respect for all members within the campus community. Generally, we understand bias to be defined as below:
A “bias” is defined as any act that is motivated, in whole or in part, due to an individual’s age, race, ethnicity, disability, gender, gender identity or expression, immigration or citizenship status, marital status, national origin, veteran status, religion and/or religious practice, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, weight, political affiliation, medical condition, mental health, or any combination of these or related factors.
Bias related-incidents are incidents that occur on campus or within an area that impacts the campus community, and are directed at a member or a group of the UT Southern community due to that individual’s or group’s actual or perceived age, race, ethnicity, disability, gender, gender identity or expression, immigration or citizenship status, marital status, national origin, veteran status, religion and/or religious practice, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, weight, political affiliation, medical condition, mental health, or any combination of these or related factors.
Certain crimes may be motivated by hate/bias, and designated as such (mostly for purposes of sentencing). So, a vandalism might is motivated by bias, but the violation is still vandalism. When we enter the incident in our reporting system, we will note that it “appears to be motivated by bias/hate.” The Clery Act notes certain crimes that we must count as hate/bias if we have evidence to support this, and they are counted both for the crime at issue and the hate/bias. Our Annual Security Report would be the only location we would actually double count these numbers.
Clery Reporting of Crimes Motivated by Bias/Hate
Crimes motivated by bias are reportable to Clery. Clery would count a hate/bias crime in both the category it fits (ex. Assault) and in the Hate/Bias category. It is important as well to note that Tennessee Law and Clery have nothing to do with one another. However, like TN law, incidents of hate/bias would only be reported to Clery if they were first deemed a crime under Clery. (Hate or bias itself is not a crime.) In order for a “hate crime” to be reportable to Clery….
- It has to have occurred on UT owned or controlled property
- It has to involve one of the Clery Act reportable crimes* which are:
- Murder and non-negligent manslaughter, negligent manslaughter
- Incest & Statutory Rape
- Aggravated Assault
- Motor Vehicle Theft
- Dating Violence
- Domestic Violence
- The “bias” must be motivated by one of these categories:
- Gender identity
- Sexual orientation
- National origin
- In order for one of these crimes to be categorized as hate crime, there needs to be some sort of evidence that proves the act of violence was done as a result of some sort of hate or bias.
*In addition to the crimes listed above, there are four additional crimes that can be motivated by bias and be reported to Clery (these four offenses are not reportable to Clery if they are not motivated by bias), they are:
- Simple assault
- Larceny – Theft
- Destruction/damage/vandalism of property
Freedom of Speech and Response to Reports of Bias
In responding to reports of bias, UT Southern will not violate the First Amendment rights of students, faculty, or staff.
Even when an incident of bias occurs, disciplinary or corrective action may not be taken toward the offender if it is determined that the act of bias was a protected exercise of their freedom of expression.
As a result, in many situations, our response to a bias incident will take the form of supporting the students adversely impacted by the bias incident. Our team will also facilitate services such as counseling, health services, or other referrals as needed to address safety concerns and to provide assistance and comfort to those impacted.