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'Behind the Blue': Reflecting on Juneteenth With Anastasia Curwood

By Kody Kiser and Ryan Girves


Sunday, June 19, 2022, will mark the second year of the federally celebrated holiday, Juneteenth. 

Long celebrated in the Black community, Juneteenth marks the day U.S. Army Gen. Gordon Granger announced to the people of Galveston, Texas, that slavery was over — more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

In recent years, we as a country have pushed for more. More discussion, more acknowledgment, more reform. With that has come more recognition of African American history that has been largely marginalized.

As the country continues to progress, so does the University of Kentucky, who made Juneteenth an academic holiday in 2020. The announcement came after the release of a multi-step action plan to increase the commitment to — and investments in — access and opportunity for Black students and communities of color on the UK campus.

“Juneteenth is an opportunity to reflect on our nation’s history,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “While we choose to remember the truth of our past, we must also not forget that this day is more than a celebration of freedom. It’s a reminder that inaction delays freedom, negligence furthers oppression and passivity cultivates cruelty.”

A celebration of the rich tapestry that is the heritage and culture of African Americans who refuse to accept anything less than a full expression of freedom, Juneteenth gives Americans an opportunity to continue to strive for the full expression of freedom for all people.

On this episode of "Behind the Blue," Anastasia Curwood, Ph.D., director of the Commonwealth Institute for Black Studies (CIBS) and African American and Africana Studies (AAAS) at UK, discusses the Juneteenth holiday, from her personal feelings and reflections on the significance of the day, to the importance of observance of the holiday by the university and more. You can listen to the full conversation in the embedded media player above. 

For those looking for ways to celebrate Juneteenth over the next few days, many local and regional events are taking place. This includes the Juneteenth Independence Day Celebration Affrilachian Poets Literary Event at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center in Lexington. UK faculty members Frank X Walker and Crystal Wilkinson will host this poetry reading at 7 p.m. Sunday, June 19. The event is free, but registration and e-tickets are required for entry. Reserve your tickets at

The UK College of Health Sciences will also host "A Juneteenth Celebration: From June 19, 1865, to Today” from noon-2 p.m. Tuesday, June 21, in room 415 Charles T. Wethington Building on UK's campus.

For a full list of events UK and community members are invited to attend in celebration of Juneteenth, click here

For more information about CIBS, including ways you can support, visit

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The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.