Wednesday, June 16, 2021

A “Note from Liz” on Juneteenth

Liz Tovar Standing

In the last couple of years, I have been asked more and more what “Juneteenth” is and what it means to our university. It always gives me pause to answer this question, not because the question is being asked or that folks may not understand the significance of this day. 

I pause because it makes me reflect on one word: progress.  

Many people are still learning about the history of our country, and to me, this is a good thing. Just as more people know of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, people learn more about June 19, 1865. I don’t take the stance of “why don’t you already know,” but rather, “let me help you understand.” It is progress when people want to learn from our past.

The University of Iowa is, first and foremost, an educational institution. It is our job as members of its faculty and staff to teach our students and our peers, friends, and family. What are we without our ongoing thirst for knowledge and understanding? 

So, let’s pause to look at Juneteenth as the University of Iowa.

Juneteenth is the combination of June and Nineteenth. It commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S., first celebrated in Texas on June 19, 1865. In the aftermath of the civil war, slaves were declared free under the terms of the emancipation proclamation on January 1, 1863, yet slavery didn’t cease until June 19, 1865.

Yes, it took two years before the end of slavery became a reality. 

Progress takes time. It takes work, empathy, and understanding. This is what we have learned in 156 years and now, what we can teach it to the next generation of Hawkeyes.

Progress takes 156 years in June. We are moving forward. Let’s keep progressing together.

Go Hawks!


Liz Tovar, Ph.D.
Executive officer and associate vice president

Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion