Juneteenth at Cooper - A Day of Celebration, Observance, and Reflection

Tomorrow, June 19th, is Juneteenth, which commemorates the official end of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth is also known as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, and Black Independence Day. Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, but it took until June 19th, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger read the federal orders from a hotel balcony to let enslaved people in Texas know that they were free. Many newly “freed” enslaved people were still forced to work in the South. Jim Crow laws and other laws were passed to attempt to control Black Americans. One hundred and fifty-five years later Black Americans are still fighting for true equity in all aspects of society.

Going forward, The Cooper Union will recognize Juneteenth as a school holiday and advocate for its recognition as a national holiday. While every day should be a day to celebrate the profound contributions of Black Americans, I ask everyone in our Cooper community to seize this moment to celebrate the lives of Blacks Americans, to reflect on our country’s history of slavery, and to take action to move our communities and our country towards racial equity and justice. For each of us, that might mean celebrating Black cultures, learning more about Juneteenth and Black histories, participating in protests advocating for racial justice, donating time and/or money to an organization that is fighting for the rights of Black Americans and anti-racism, or raising your voice to shine a light on the sustained work that needs to be done so that all Black people have freedom, justice, and a true opportunity to thrive.

If you want to learn more about Juneteenth or are looking for ways to celebrate, you might consider starting with these resources: 

National Museum of African American History & Culture: Celebrating Juneteenth

Juneteenth: A Celebration Of Resilience

What is Juneteenth? -- Henry Louis Gates, Jr.


Black Lives Matter and Pandemic Bring Juneteenth Into Focus

We look forward to organizing programming in the Great Hall for future Juneteenth celebrations at The Cooper Union when we can all be physically together again. 

In Solidarity, 

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.