University officials participate in Juneteenth activities
TUSKEGEE, Ala. (June 20, 2011) — Tuskegee University officials participated in Juneteenth celebrations in Tuskegee and Virginia on Saturday, June 18. The gatherings each commemorated the day slaves in the South learned of their freedom made possible by President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon stressed the importance of a continued, united fight for justice and equality at the city of Tuskegee’s annual Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 18 in the city square.
“We as a people survived the forced extraction from Africa, survived the misery of the Middle Passage, survived the cruelties of slavery, and survived the scourge of segregation,” Rochon said. “We continue to survive the injustice of denied reparations, continued poverty, unemployment, healthcare disparities, and economic and political marginality.”
Rochon said that while black Americans have a larger and more advanced presence in several industries, the will to succeed should not be absent.
“While we have much to celebrate in our accomplishments in higher education, major leadership roles in science, engineering, literature, politics, arts, business, entertainment … we still have a long way to go and the struggle must continue,” Rochon said. “Here in Tuskegee, the university and the community must continue to struggle jointly to achieve our highest aspirations and we shall do so by our determination and commitment, and to quote Abraham Lincoln, ‘by the gracious favor of Almighty God.’”
In Hardy, Va., birthplace of Tuskegee Institute (now University) founder Booker T. Washington, the Friends of the Booker T. Washington Monument also hosted a Juneteenth commemoration at the National Historic Site. Representing Tuskegee University were: Thierno Thiam, Office of the President; Cheryl Thomas, senior director for development, who delivered the keynote speech; and Kimberly Woodard, associate director for development and president of the Tuskegee University National Alumni Association. The gathering also served as a platform for more engagement and for developing a link between Tuskegee University and the site.
Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, ending the slavery of blacks in America. The news that the slaves were indeed free did not reach southern slaves until June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas.
For more information about the Friends of Booker T. Washington National Monument please log on to http://www.nps.gov/bowa .
Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon and Macon County Commission chairman, Louis Maxwell, talk at the city's annual Juneteenth celebration on June 18.
Actors re-enact slaves rejoicing over news of their freedom at a Juneteenth celebration on June 18 at the Booker T. Washington National Monument site in Hardy, Va.