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APSU employees offer their reflections on Juneteenth holiday

Sunday, June 19, marks the 157th anniversary of the day Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with orders that all slaves in Texas were free. The celebration of that day – Juneteenth – is now a federal holiday, and last fall, Austin Peay State University also announced that Juneteenth was now a university holiday, which will be observed this year on Monday, June 20.

To honor this new holiday, the University asked three members of the Austin Peay family to offer their reflections on Juneteenth.

LaNeeça R. Williams, Chief Diversity Officer and Title IX Coordinator

LaNeeça R. Williams

“There will be celebrations across America and Tennessee, encouraging people to attend block parties, cookouts, and educational events as Juneteenth is now recognized as a federal holiday. If it is not a part of your culture, this may be your first time joining in on the celebrations. Nevertheless, while enjoying the celebrations (drinking red drinks and eating strawberry pie, red velvet cake, and red sausages on the grill), please remember it is a time to reflect that Juneteenth recognizes the disadvantages people faced in the fight to be viewed as equal. We should all continue to commit and challenge ourselves to build equitable solutions for those issues that still exist in our societies today. So, let Juneteenth commemorate freedom for Black/African American people that emphasizes education and achievement today and always at Austin Peay State University.”


Dr. Eva Gibson, Assistant Professor of Psychological Sciences and Counseling

Dr. Eva Gibson

“For me Juneteenth is a symbol of strength and resilience. Due to the enslavement era, my genealogy research is somewhat restricted. I can only trace my heritage back six generations on my mother’s side and four generations on my father’s side. This search, although limited, uncovers family stories of painful struggles, but also stories of endurance and fortitude. As I reflect on the story of my enslaved ancestor, Jane Highenbotham, I stand in awe of the family journey that has resulted in me occupying the position I am in. For me, Juneteenth is a reminder of the contributions that Black people have made to the development of this nation. I cannot ignore the multitude of military service members in my family who have served this country, despite how this country has treated them. I must acknowledge and honor the sacrifices of my grand uncle, John Burrell Garner, as he participated in a sit-in (and was consequently arrested) during the Civil Rights Movement. In spite of the historical injustices, my family has not only survived, but thrived. For me, Juneteenth is a reminder to celebrate our accomplishments and our culture.”


Dannelle Whiteside, Vice President for Legal Affairs and Organizational Strategy

Dannelle Whiteside

“The proclamation posted in Galveston, Texas, posted two years after the emancipation Proclamation was signed stated, 'The people are informed that… all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property…' Juneteenth should always serve as a reminder that victory without progress means nothing. Each of us has a part to play in making progress toward an equitable world. On Juneteenth, I hope that you feel a renewed sense of purpose in your responsibility to advance equality. Spend time thinking about one thing you can do to advance a more equitable world. And then DO IT! That’s the only way we can actually achieve the absolute equality that the enslaved people were promised in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865. Happy Juneteenth!”

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