Dr. Yohuru Williams
Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas

In the News: Yohuru Williams on the History and Meaning of Juneteenth

Yohuru Williams, history professor and founding director of the Racial Justice Initiative at the University of St. Thomas, joined WCCO Radio on the morning of Juneteenth 2024 to discuss the history and significance of the holiday.

From the interview:

"People often ask me, what's the difference between Juneteenth and the Fourth of July - is Juneteenth simply a celebration of African Americans, Black Americans receiving freedom? And that's a little problematic because when we talk about the Fourth of July, certainly American independence is accomplished as a result of the Declaration of Independence and the effort to remove the colonies from the colonial stewardship of England. When we talk about emancipation, though, this is the fruition of the ideals that are articulated by the founders in documents like the Declaration of Independence, in documents like the preambles of the Constitution, which didn't apply to the entire population."

When we talk about Juneteenth, what we're celebrating, in some sense, is this continuing evolving process toward living up to the values of liberty, equality and justice."

Dr. Yohuru Williams,
Racial Justice Initiative