Juneteenth is now an official University holiday, according to an announcement from May 9.

The Columbia University Senate has passed a resolution designating Juneteenth as an official University holiday. Juneteenth, which takes place on a Monday this year, has been added to the University holiday calendar. This year will actually mark the fourth time that the University has given students, faculty, and staff a day off in observance of the holiday, a tradition that began in 2020.

The holiday, celebrated on June 19, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, two years after the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation, Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, and informed enslaved Black Americans that the Civil War was over and that they were free. In 2021, when Juneteenth was officially recognized as a federal holiday, Columbia released a series of short videos describing the holiday and suggesting ways for the Columbia community to celebrate.

According to last week’s announcement from Dan Driscoll, Vice President of Columbia University Human Resources, “Observing Juneteenth is the opportunity for us to come together as a community to recognize and celebrate the importance of this day, to honor and acknowledge the experiences of all those who have endured racism and discrimination, to commit ourselves to advancing the dreams of freedom this holiday represents, and to renew our collective commitment to ideals of freedom.”

In an email to Barnard students this afternoon, Vice Presidents Jomysha Stephen and Jennifer Rosales provided a list of resources for celebrating the holiday both virtually and across the city. Reiterating Driscoll’s sentiments, they wrote, “This important commemoration is also a chance to celebrate the struggle and resilience of Black Americans, and take action to promote equity and opportunity.” The full text of the email can be found below.

Email from EVP Jomysha Stephen and VP Jennifer Rosales to Barnard Students on May 15, 2023, at 3:30 pm:

Dear Barnard Community,

As has become our tradition, we will observe Juneteenth with special programming, and a day off on Monday, June 19, for students, faculty, and most staff members. On Juneteenth, we hope to reflect on America’s long history of slavery and anti-Blackness, and the ways in which our history continues to shape our present as a nation a century and a half after Emancipation. This important commemoration is also a chance to celebrate the struggle and resilience of Black Americans, and take action to promote equity and opportunity. Once again, we raise up our shared aspirations for racial justice, self-determination, and truth, values that resonate with Barnard’s educational mission and fundamental commitment to equity and anti-racism.

Juneteenth commemorates the Union’s 1865 announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas, two and a half years after it was signed into law. News of emancipation spread across Texas throughout the summer and autumn of 1865. Local Black communities gradually settled on June 19 (Juneteenth) as their day of celebration. To learn more, read Professor Celia Naylor’s article on the history of Juneteenth in Texas, the broader context of celebrating emancipatory acts for people of African descent, and the official holiday’s contemporary relevance.

This commemoration serves as a yearly reminder that we must all participate in the continued struggle to dismantle racism. This year, we encourage our community to collectively engage and reflect on the meaning of Juneteenth in New York City with two opportunities to participate in local events for free.

We invite you to enjoy live music with Soul of the City: Juneteenth with Queen Esther at the Museum of the City of New York (mcny.org) on Saturday, June 17 at 2:00 pm. We will also sponsor Barnard community members to participate in the Juneteenth 5k Run/Walk/Roll in Central Park through north Central Park and Seneca Village benefitting maintenance of the Harlem Center, a building housing over 30 Black-centered non-profits, on June 19 at 1:00 pm. Please register here for Queen Esther and/or the Juneteenth 5K.

Also, check out the Office of Community Engagement & Inclusion’s Keep-it-Local guide to support Black-owned businesses in the neighborhood. The Barnard Library and Academic Information Services (BLAIS) staff have provided this curated list of text suggestions on Juneteenth and Black liberation.

Further details will be provided to managers and staff required to work on June 19. Staff should check the Connections newsletter for additional information. Employees represented by UAW Local 2110, TWU Local 264, and Local 32 BJ who are assigned to work on the holiday will be paid for time worked in accordance with the holiday pay provisions of their respective collective bargaining agreements, as well as overtime pay, if applicable.

Managers who have questions on how best to support staff requests should contact a member of the Office of Human Resources at hr@barnard.edu.

Wishing you rest and critical reflection,

Jomysha Delgado Stephen ’96, Executive Vice President of the College and General Counsel

Jennifer Rosales, Vice President of Inclusion and Engaged Learning, Chief Diversity Officer

Campus via Bwog Archives