Virginia Tech researchers dig deeper into Juneteenth

The Juneteenth Scholars Program is designed to explore its role in history

The university wanted to do something tangible.

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Virginia Tech researchers are looking at the history behind Juneteenth.

As the Black Lives Matter movement gains momentum, it’s also gained attention, including at Virginia Tech.

“We wanted to do something tangible. You know, there were a lot of universities that were issuing statements of solidarity, a lot of employers were doing this, but we really wanted to do something that had real resources behind it,” said Laura Belmonte, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

From that, came the Juneteenth Scholars Program through the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

Belmonte launched the initiative last summer to help commemorate Juneteenth and explore its role in history.

Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19 and marks the day when the nation’s final slaves, living in Galveston, Texas, learned that they were indeed free.

“We came up with the idea of creating the fellowships that go to early-career scholars who are working in areas of scholarship that address the histories of slavery and emancipation, civil rights, racial and social justice,” Belmonte said.

Brandy Faulkner is one of those scholars, researching student-led movements advocating for social and political change.

“Obviously they want to be successful and so what I’m hoping to do is to see what factors are actually leading to success,” said Faulkner, Gloria D. Smith Professor of Black Studies in the Department of Political Science.

Her work is continuing, as a new group of researchers is added into the mix this summer.

“It does show that there is an investment in those who have been neglected over time so it’s exciting for me to see,” Faulkner said.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion are not just about diversifying our faculty, students and staff. It’s about really making an impact,” Belmonte said.

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