The legal significance of Juneteenth


With the United States and the University of Louisville both recently declaring Juneteenth as a holiday, Louisville Law Professor Cedric Merlin Powell — a constitutional law and Critical Race Theory scholar — explains the legal significance of this date.

"Juneteenth shows the complexity and limitations of this notion of freedom. Everyone is entitled to equal rights, but even when these emancipated slaves were freed, they didn't find out until two and a half years later. It certainly is legally significant in terms of giving them notice that they're part of the American community of citizens, but it also sets into motion all of the Reconstruction amendments, like the 13th Amendment, the 14th Amendment and the 15th Amendment — you need all three of those amendments to make people citizens, not simply this proclamation that came two years before Juneteenth.

"This is a recurring theme in American history. In the Third Reconstruction, it's good that we are recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday. It really commemorates our ongoing struggle for inclusion."

Erin Gow, online services librarian, has compiled a list of resources from Louisville Law faculty about Critical Race Theory and social justice.