UF closes to celebrate Juneteenth

The University of Florida will be closed on Monday, June 19 in recognition of Juneteenth.

The holiday commemorates the news of the Emancipation Proclamation freeing enslaved African Americans reaching Texas in 1865, nearly two years after the proclamation was issued, according to the White House’s Proclamation on Juneteenth Day of Observance, 2021.

The day became an official holiday in 2021 and is the first time a federal holiday has been added since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

“When a holiday that is celebrating the experiences of African Americans gets recognized by the federal government, it is saying our history is intertwined,” said Riché J. Daniel Barnes, associate professor of anthropology in African American studies. “Dr. King’s birthday becoming a holiday is saying that he is not just an African American hero but is also an American hero.”

Barnes, who is African American, said she celebrated Juneteenth with a community barbecue while growing up. Party-goers dressed in red, drinking punch and eating red velvet cake, to represent the blood shed throughout enslavement.

Barnes grew up celebrating the emancipation on two different occasions — Juneteenth and Watch Night. She and her family would go to church service every New Years Eve to celebrate what some call Emancipation Eve to remember the enslaved African Americans awaiting the Emancipation Proclamation, which was issued on New Years Day 1863. 

“This obviously gives another reason to be off in the summer and another reason to have a cookout or to have a festival for people in a community regardless of race and ethnicity,” she said.  “We can all come together and have fun.”

The City of Gainesville began their celebration on May 20, Florida’s Emancipation Day, and will go until Juneteenth with events like a breakfast and a festival. 

“With the federal government acknowledging this holiday, I believe this brings us closer to a much more thorough telling of the history of this country,” she said. “It’s something that we all should want, and it is an acknowledgment that the United States was formed by a lot of different people. Whether it happened for good reasons or bad reasons, it happened. It needs to be acknowledged, taught, and celebrated.” 

Blake Trauschke June 16, 2023