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Morgan State University educates on significance of Juneteenth and impact on higher education

Morgan State University gives a history lesson on Juneteenth
Morgan State University gives a history lesson on Juneteenth 02:41

BALTIMORE -- June 19 may be a holiday for some, but Morgan State University is educating and embodying the tradition and true-meaning of this historical day.

As a Federal Holiday, Juneteenth is a day off work or school. 

At Morgan State, the institution is educating others about the significance of this day, where the United States was, and where it still must go.

"It's an American history moment where we all can learn our stewardship," said Dr. Ida Jones, Associate Director of Special Collections and university archivist at Morgan State.

Juneteenth marks the day Union soldiers freed enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, which was more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. 

The next step for some was to get their education to claim their right to citizenship.

"The idea for African Americans coming out of enslavement, as well as those who were pre-Civil War free, was the idea of citizenship. How do we claim citizenship?" Jones said. "Well, the idea at the early onset of what became Morgan State University in 1975 was the idea that education should be accessible, it should be affordable. And even if people don't grace the doors of the classroom, me as a product of the institution can go into a community and like yeast in bread, help it rise."

Both historians say despite the laws on the books, some loopholes allow systemic racism to persist.

"Every time African Americans are supposed to have an opportunity, it is delay and denied. It's not until there's a fight that we make what should be legally accessible to us," said Dr. Edwin T. Johnson, Special Assistant to the Provost and university historian at Morgan State.

Since the 1860s, there have been obstacles to achieving the goal of educational equality, including expulsion from primarily white institutions, forcing students to travel out of Maryland to get their education, and even funding inequities that still limit Historically Black Colleges and Universities today.

"When everyone doesn't have the opportunity to become the best version of themselves, and everyone doesn't have the opportunity to realize their full potential, we all lose," Johnson said. "Black folk don't lose when Black talent is lost. It's not us alone. White folk have an opportunity to benefit from Black brilliance, Black excellence, and Black talents."

Juneteenth serves as a reminder of this ongoing fight for equality that everyone plays a role in.

"It's a good day to kind of not completely tune out and have a picnic, or celebrate in other kinds of ways, but also to maybe go to a museum, maybe watch a documentary and kind of engage in some of the hard things and kind of contextualize where's my stewardship?" Jones said.

"This is a reminder of one step, but there are so many other steps that we have to move it forward," Johnson said.                            

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