Chancellor’s Message: Juneteenth, a celebration of freedom

I hope you will take this time to reflect on the work we can do together to create an environment where everyone is included, valued, and respected.


This message was shared with the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo ‘ohana on June 16, 2023.

Juneteenth flag, red white and blue, with star at center, word Juneteenth.
Juneteenth flag (Pixaby)

Aloha UH Hilo ‘ohana,

This month, the nation will commemorate the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans on Juneteenth (June 19).

Juneteenth marks the date in 1865 when word finally reached communities of enslaved people in Texas that the Civil War had ended and they were freed from slavery. This was nearly two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery. For Black Americans, Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom and a day of independence. It is also an important step for all of us in our continuous journey for racial and social justice in the United States.

The federal government designated Juneteenth as a national holiday in 2021, and while Governor Ige signed legislation last year to make Juneteenth a special day of observance in Hawai‘i, it is not a state holiday. Therefore, the UH Hilo campus will remain open on that day.

Recognizing holidays is an important step toward advancing our mission to be an inclusive and equitable institution and achieving the kind of transformational change we all want. I hope you will take this time to reflect on the work we can do together to create an environment where everyone is included, valued, and respected.

E mālama pono,

Bonnie D. Irwin
Chancellor