Honoring Juneteenth

May 5, 2022

Dear Members of the Yale Community,

Yale is adopting Juneteenth, now a federal holiday, as a university holiday. Starting this year, on June 20, the university will close for a day of commemoration for Juneteenth. Faculty and staff will have paid time off for that day. Those who must work on June 20 will receive the compensatory time off or holiday pay associated with university policy or relevant union contracts for represented staff members.

On June 19, 1865, the enslaved African American people of Galveston, Texas, learned they were free from bondage. Although President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, it took two more years before some of the last enslaved people were freed in this country. Last June, President Biden signed the bill making Juneteenth the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day over three decades ago. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (Yale College ’72), Senator Ed Markey, Senator John Cornyn, and several senators who graduated from Yale introduced the bill for Juneteenth that Congress passed with bipartisan support.

Juneteenth is a day of reflection and rejoicing, as well as a moment to acknowledge the long civil rights movement. The holiday gives us the chance to celebrate the end of slavery; to remember the experiences, labor, and lives of enslaved people; and to recognize the contributions of members of the Black community to this country.

Although the university will be closed in observance of Juneteenth, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members will be invited to take part in activities on campus, listed on Belonging at Yale, and to learn about the findings of the Yale and Slavery Working Group. Since October 2020, the Yale and Slavery Working Group, chaired by Sterling Professor of History David Blight, has been studying Yale’s historical roles and associations with slavery, the slave trade, and abolition. Members of the group have been sharing their progress regularly through online events, many of which are archived and available on demand. Professor Blight also is writing a narrative, with plans to submit it for publication later this year.

I look forward to joining you in commemorating Juneteenth next month and in honoring those who have worked with courage to seek freedom, justice, peace, and dignity for all.

With best regards,

Peter Salovey
Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology