Four years after the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter, two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and two months after Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, Union Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, to read General Order No. 3.
The order affirmed to the people of Texas that all those formerly held in bondage were now free, afforded equal personal and property rights in accordance with the law. Granger and his 2,000 troops remained on Galveston Island, the furthest reaches of the shattered Confederacy, until June 18.
The next day marked the first celebration of Juneteenth, celebrated nationwide June 19.
More than 150 years later, the holiday gained significant national exposure in the wake of last summer's protests over the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
At UNLV, 2021 marks the second year that in-person celebrations will be held back due to the pandemic. Instead, Egypt Howard created a virtual classroom as a resource for students this year.
It's a COVID-borne compromise, but the hope is that by next year, Juneteenth will return to being an event that brings people together and can help students interact with the world beyond Maryland Parkway.
"My hope would be to be able to engage more with the community so that students are not just siloed to campus, but are really getting that feel for the Juneteenth culture and that celebration," Howard said. "It's always good to do things on campus, but I think a big part of Juneteenth is being in community, whether that is the campus community or the Las Vegas community in general."
Howard, newly arrived to campus after having served as a social worker and at California State University, Chico, leads Student Diversity & Social Justice's Black/African American program.
The Juneteenth website includes a reading list appropriate to the holiday with titles like The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, W. E. B. Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folks, and Black Fortunes: The Story of the First Six African Americans Who Escaped Slavery and Became Millionaires by Shomari Wills; as well as links to music, episodes of television shows like Blackish, and recommended movies and documentaries such as 13th, Selma, and Chi-Raq.
Momentum surrounding the holiday has picked up over the past year, and Howard hopes that energy can be harnessed to help solidify its status at the national level.
"There was of course, a lot of energy behind Juneteenth and its recognition last year with a lot of the social unrest," she said. "I know there's a lot, a lot more universities, businesses, things like that that are acknowledging Juneteenth and working to make it a paid holiday, which is really good."