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The University of Pittsburgh today announced its observation of Juneteenth as a holiday and its addition to the University calendar.
Beginning this academic year, all University campuses will close in observation of Juneteenth.
“The call to make Juneteenth an official University of Pittsburgh holiday was refined in committee and evolved under the auspices of my senior leadership team,” Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said. “I am pleased to support this change and to support our campus community in recognizing our nation’s newest federal holiday.”
Juneteenth — short for “June Nineteenth” and often referred to as Black Independence Day or Jubilee Day — commemorates the effective end of slavery in America.
“Juneteenth is an incredibly significant piece of American history as it denotes a pivotal moment in the emancipation process for those individuals who were enslaved,” said Clyde Wilson Pickett, vice chancellor for the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (OEDI). “Our observance as a community provides an opportunity for reflection on the long struggle Black Americans have faced in this country. It’s important that the University recognize this day as a holiday and is a small — but meaningful — piece of the University’s ongoing commitment to an inclusive and welcoming campus community.”
In September 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which was ratified Jan. 1, 1863. Its intent to abolish slavery, however, was stalled until the Confederate surrender on April 9, 1865 and the end of the Civil War.
On June 19, 1865, Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas and brought news to hundreds of thousands of enslaved people that they were freed. Emancipation Day celebrations began in 1866, and President Joe Biden declared Juneteenth, considered the longest-running African American holiday, a federal holiday in 2021.
"It is energizing and affirming that we are embracing Juneteenth in a new way — as a day to observe and reflect collectively," Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Ann E. Cudd said. "I hope that every member of the Pitt community will use this holiday to embrace the principles of equality promised to all and to think creatively and compassionately about how we can further advance and uphold those principles in lasting and transformative ways."
The University’s adoption of the holiday followed requests to acknowledge this significant historical moment from the Black Senate, Equipoise, the Faculty Senate and other campus stakeholders.
Committed to creating a broader climate of inclusion, university leaders who led the charge to adopt Juneteenth as a holiday included Gallagher, Pickett and Cudd, as well as senior staff members Dave DeJong, senior vice chancellor for Business and Operations; Anantha Shekhar, senior vice chancellor for the Health Sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of the School of Medicine; and Hari Sastry, senior vice chancellor and chief financial officer.
“The observation of Juneteenth provides a wonderful opportunity for engagement and reflection, supporting our broader efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion at Pitt,” DeJong said.
Monique Smith, faculty affairs manager for the Office of Faculty Diversity and Development within the Office of Provost, served on the committee that brought forth this new University holiday. “It is important to commemorate the historical legacy of Juneteenth, and my hope is that we will continue to create spaces that support open and honest dialogue,” she said.
Monica McNeil, an OEDI graduate student assistant and master’s candidate in the School of Education, also noted that while “Juneteenth holds much power and weight, and it should be celebrated,” it extends beyond a celebration.
“The University is educating the Pitt community and helping people understand its importance. Hopefully, this decision will be about more than having a day off and spark people to continue fighting for Black liberation,” she said.
The University will be closed Monday, June 20, 2022, in observation of the holiday, which falls on a Sunday this year.