1. Adeniran, Rita K. DrNP, RN, NEA-BC, FNAP, FAAN

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There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen. - -Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

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In 2021, the US Congress unanimously passed a resolution signed into law by President Biden on June 17, 2021, commemorating June 19 (Juneteenth) as a federal holiday. Juneteenth officially marks the end of slavery and memorializes the events of June 19, 1865, when Gordon Granger, a Union general, informed enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, of their freedom. It was more than 2 years after the emancipation pronunciation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, to free slaves in the United States. The emancipation proclamation applied only to people in the Confederacy and areas captured by Union troops. Texas surrendered to the Union on June 2, 1865; thus, enslaved people became free on June 19, 1865.


Americans celebrate Juneteenth as a National Day of Pride, symbolizing African American freedom, contributions, love of country, excellence, and resilience in the face of systemic racism. The holiday is a recognition of the journey to overcoming some of the pain from slavery and oppression, exemplifying the power of conscientious resolve, relentless passion, and unyielding perseverance. Juneteenth unleashes a renewed sense of pride, purpose, and a commitment to the ongoing work for racial justice, equal rights, and the elimination of structural inequities. I view Juneteenth as a marker of reconstruction, a step in the right direction to healing the wounds of slavery and its ugliness. Indeed, Juneteenth inches America toward its greatest ideals. The White House statement on June 17, 2022,1 summarizes the essence of Juneteenth as follows:


On Juneteenth, we remember our extraordinary capacity to heal, hope, and emerge from our worst moments as a stronger, freer, and more just Nation. It is also a day to celebrate the power and resilience of Black Americans, who have endured generations of oppression in the ongoing journey toward equal justice, equal dignity, equal rights, and equal opportunity in America. (P1)


Unfortunately, at the writing of this column, not every US state embraces Juneteenth as a legal paid holiday, citing lack of awareness and the cost of another paid holiday as reasons for not honoring the commemoration.2 Nonetheless, the work continues, and every citizen, profession, and institution have a role in assisting the country to emerge from its worst moments to a more robust, freer, and more just Nation, including the nursing profession. From my perspective as an African American nurse and an urban university faculty member, a literature review on racism in nursing revealed parallel information about nations' legacies of structural racism and inequities in nursing.3-6 One would like to think otherwise, but evidence suggests the legacy of racial inequities in the United States has influenced the development of the nursing profession. The opportunity to learn from the African American Community's journey and leadership work that led Congress to commemorate Juneteenth as a federal holiday is worthy of replication. There are lessons of passion, perseverance, conscientiousness, and a purpose to make change happen. The nursing profession is challenged to enact change in the profession: I offer the following bulleted ideas:


* Leverage the deep level of public trust and a high number of nurses represented in health care delivery to lead systemic change.5


* Acknowledge the structural racism that exists in nursing, past and present, and operationalize strategies to eliminate inequities and advance health equity.5


* Recognize the roots of racism in nursing education, practice, research, and policy and embrace antiracist values as standards in the profession.


* Dismantle mechanisms such as policies, practices, procedures, and paradigms that perpetuate racial inequity.


* Engage and educate nurses about the complete history of nursing.6


* Identify what and where things must change within institutions and implement tailored strategies and tactics to eliminate racial inequities.


* Name and recognize the contributions of nurses who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).6


* Track, monitor, record, and transparently share progress on goals and objectives.


* Consistently reevaluate, celebrate, and report impact/success.




Individual nurses, higher educational institutions, professional organizations, such as the National Academy of Practice,7 and leaders have a role in eliminating inequities in the nursing profession. I am confident that the Juneteenth celebration will continue to make a national and global contribution with a focus on ensuring the freedom of all humans, dismantling the destructive legacy of systemic inequities and injustice through relentless passion, perseverance, and a renewed sense of pride and purpose!




1. White House Briefing Room. A Proclamation on Juneteenth Day of Observance, 2022. Washington, DC: The White House; 2022. [Context Link]


2. Mercer M. Juneteenth Is Not a Legal Holiday in Most States. Washington, DC: The Pew Charitable Trusts; 2022. [Context Link]


3. Waite R, Nardi D. Nursing colonialism in America: implications for nursing leadership. J Prof Nurs. 2019;35(1):18-25. [Context Link]


4. Tobbell D, D'Antonio P. The History of Racism in Nursing: A Review of Existing Scholarship. Silver Spring, MD: National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing; 2022. [Context Link]


5. Moore SS, Drake D. We are the solution to our problem: a brief review of the history of racism and nursing. Women's Healthcare. August 20, 2021:34-39. [Context Link]


6. Baptiste D-L, Turner S, Josiah N, et al Hidden figures of nursing: the historical contributions of Black nurses and a narrative for those who are unnamed, undocumented and underrepresented. J Adv Nurs. 2021;77(4):1627-1632. [Context Link]


7. Lee Bishop K, Daniels Abbruzzese L, Adeniran RK, et al Becoming an antiracist interprofessional healthcare organization: our journey. J Interprof Educ Pract. 2022;27:100509. [Context Link]