Campus News

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

Anastasia Curwood teaches in White Hall Classroom Building

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 17, 2022) — 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

"Behind the Blue" is available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and Spotify. Become a subscriber to receive new episodes of “Behind the Blue” each week. UK’s latest medical breakthroughs, research, artists and writers will be featured, along with the most important news impacting the university.

For questions or comments about this or any other episode of "Behind the Blue," email or tweet your question with #BehindTheBlue. Transcripts for this or other episodes of "Behind the Blue" can be downloaded from the show’s blog page.

To discover what’s wildly possible at the University of Kentucky, click here.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.