Why dozens of colleges have made Juneteenth a holiday

By: | June 14, 2021
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Emerson College has made Juneteenth a staff holiday, as more schools officially commemorate June 19, the day that celebrates the end of slavery in the U.S.

“While Juneteenth is not recognized as a federal holiday, we, at Emerson College, believe Juneteenth represents an important moment in the nation’s history and should be an annual point of reflection and recommitment to racial equity,” said Sylvia Spears, vice president for equity and social justice, and Shari Stier, senior associate vice president of human resources.

The University of Maryland, which gave employees Juneteenth off last year, has made it a holiday across its system, cancelling all classes on Friday, June 18, as Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year.

“We remain committed to finding more ways to celebrate Black history and culture,” University of Maryland President Darryll J. Pines said in a message to campus earlier this spring. “Let’s use this time to reflect on both our history and recent events and how we continue to work to eradicate anti-Black racism—and racism in all its forms—together.”

Over the last few months, Boston UniversityColumbia College of Chicago, Georgetown College in Kentucky, Monroe Community College in New York and Princeton University have also made Juneteeth an official campus holiday.

“We observe Juneteenth to commemorate the ending of slavery in the United States, to examine the roots of racial inequality and injustice, and to eradicate racial inequality and injustice in our community through our shared commitment to our MCC values: integrity, excellence, empowerment, inclusiveness, collaboration and stewardship,” Monroe Community College said on its website.

Last year, in the wake of the protest over George Floyd’s death and other police shootings, Antioch College in Ohio, Bowdoin College in Maine, College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, Harvard University, Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, and Rollins Colleges in Florida, among others, officially recognized Juneteenth as a holiday.

“We stand in support of our Black students, alumni, faculty and staff, and Black Americans,” Randolph-Macon College President Robert R. Lindgren said on the school’s website. “The College’s observation of Juneteenth will allow our community to further reflect not only on momentous current events, but also on the history of the United States, its impact especially on black communities, and importantly, on the significance of Juneteenth.”