Grambling State University Officials: Juneteenth is a Time of Reflection and Commemoration

Bill Passes Making June 19 an Official Louisiana State Holiday, campus to close June 18, 21 in observance

by Bobbie Handcock, Office of Communications

GRAMBLING, La. – June 15, 2021 – Juneteenth has long been celebrated in various communities in Louisiana but this year marks the passage of a bill making it an official state holiday. Gov. John Bel Edwards signed House Bill 554 into law on June 10 after it passed unanimously in the House and Senate. Juneteenth, or June 19, commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States.

Grambling State University (GSU) began observing Juneteenth as an official holiday in 2020. The campus will be closed on Friday, June 18, and Monday, June 21 in observance.

GSU President Rick Gallot said the university, the city of Grambling and other communities across the state and country have observed Juneteenth for years. The fact that state legislators have passed a law officially making Juneteenth a holiday in Louisiana helps bring awareness of African-American history. The new state law goes into effect on August 1, 2021.

“Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the emancipation of enslaved people in this country,” Gallot said. “It is the moment when the culture began moving away from an unpaid Black labor force to a more empowered Black experience. Not only will Grambling State commemorate this holiday, but with the passage of this new law, the great state of Louisiana will officially observe it as well.”

Juneteenth is a time of reflection and commemoration, said Dr. Roshunda Belton, chair of the Department of History at Grambling State University.  It celebrates the day the enslaved African Americans in Texas, specifically, Galveston, received word that they were free.

“The date was June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after the end of the Civil War,” Belton said. “It is an important day because it symbolizes a Day of Independence for African Americans.”

So, why did so much time pass before the news reached Texas?

“It is true that news did not move as fast as it does in the 21st century, but it was very likely that slaveholders held the information to take advantage of the free labor during the harvest season,” she said. “Even after the Civil War had ended, the enslaved of Texas were still working, not knowing that they were free individuals. It was not until June 19, 1865, that they were informed of their new status as freed individuals.”

Belton explained that while the Emancipation Proclamation applied to the rebelling states that had joined the Confederacy, it did not apply to states like Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, and Missouri.  The 13th Amendment, adopted in December 1865, officially ended slavery throughout the United States.

“Even though the Emancipation Proclamation did not free all the enslaved, nor were they all freed on June 19, 1865, Juneteenth is a celebration of independence and a time to reflect on the challenges, successes, and strengths of the African-American community,” she said.

About Grambling State University
Grambling State University, located in Grambling, Louisiana, is a historically black university founded in 1901. The University has been accredited by 13 accrediting associations and holds accreditations in all programs required by the Louisiana Board of Regents. The 590-acre campus offers 43 undergraduate and graduate academic programs. Grambling State University is a member of the University of Louisiana System. For more information, visit