President's Juneteenth Message

Dear Saint Mary’s Community, 

Saint Mary’s joins with our Black students, faculty, and staff to honor today, Juneteenth, the emancipation holiday annually commemorated on June 19. We join also in the observance of this historic day, which is a significant part of not only Black history but also our nation’s history. 

Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery, is historic in that Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas, with a General Order stating that the war had ended and that slaves were now free. This occurred two and a half years AFTER President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. Nearly 250,000 Black people in Texas remained enslaved for an additional two years. The General Order 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 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 key words absolute equality of rights written in 1865 were meant to guarantee freedoms and justice for Black people. As we know, this has not been the reality of our Black sisters and brothers. Injustice and systemic racism continue. We stand with our Black students, faculty, and staff to disrupt the status quo of injustice and to fight for freedoms that have been systematically and structurally denied. 

I am humbled and appreciative of the deep conversations about race and injustice that are occurring at Saint Mary’s 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 step out of our comfort zones and do everything within our power to rise above the grips of racism. 

The celebration of Juneteenth gives us the opportunity to unite under the banner of freedom, for it is not merely a footnote to American history but represents a critical turning point for the country as a whole. Juneteenth invites all of us to truly recognize the importance of this pivotal time in history. 

To paraphrase a quote by Dr. Maya Angelou, “When you know better, do better.” Let this be our charge. 

In the spirit of De La Salle,

James A. Donahue