Campus News

Celebrating Juneteenth at UH: Making Black history known

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

This was the second year UH has celebrated Juneteenth and it was filled with students and staff coming together to commemorate Black history and the effect it continues to have on society today. 

Around 11% of UH’s student body is composed of African Americans but a few decades ago, that was not the case. 

It was only in 1961 that UH began accepting Black students on campus and the years that followed highlighted the struggles and triumphs of attending a predominantly white student body. 

With the rise of Black students came the demand for African-American courses to be offered on campus. As of 2018, UH offers a degree in African American Studies which would not have been possible without the groundwork Lynn Eusan, Omowale Luthuli-Allen, Gene Locke and Deloyd Parker did in 1969 to establish the first African American Studies program. 

CLASS Distinguished Professor and Chair of African American Studies Dr. Tara T. Green highlights the importance of celebrating the history behind Juneteenth and the work her department does in keeping it alive. 

“It’s important for all people of Texas to know something of the history as it relates to enslaved people,” said Green. “Juneteenth is a celebration of family and freedom for people to be able to come together without someone standing over them and telling them how long they could be together.”

In the 1960s, Black students rallied together to make their presence known and write their own history at UH. One of the ways they did this was by putting together Experience 71, a Black annual spearheaded by the Black Student Union similar to UH’s yearbook, The Houstonian. 

In an article published by The Cougar on March 10, 1971, associate editor Eddie Dupree of the Black annual described Experience 71 as a way for Black students to be recognized on campus without having to do something outstanding like become a star athlete. 

“If the Houstonian paid more attention to the Blacks on campus, perhaps the Black annual would not be necessary,” said Dupree. 

A month after The Cougar published that article, another article emerged on April 6, 1971 detailing how posters for the Black annual kept disappearing. Someone, they thought, was tearing them down, according to the article. 

Despite the setback, the Black annual editor in chief Eunice Curry promised things would still be rolling as promised. 

Although copies of Experience 71 have yet to be found by The Cougar, the Houstonian showcases a photo of Curry and a member of her staff holding up flyers promoting the Black annual on page 200. 

From the moment Black students stepped foot on campus, they were advocating for a more inclusive, just and equal society despite all the discrimination and prejudice attacking them left and right. 

“As an educator, I’m always celebrating Juneteenth because Juneteenth for me isn’t necessarily the festival time but the fact that, I am free to walk into a classroom on a campus that would not have welcomed me in its very beginnings,” said Green. 

Juneteenth is a way to remember these students and acknowledge UH’s own Black history and the impact it continues to have on campus. 

“Juneteenth is a moment to pause and to reflect, but I believe that it is important to push forward in what those people envisioned for the people who were freed, and also what they expected of our country: that it would be an inclusive place where everyone would have opportunities and that they would have access,” said Green. 

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