Dear Seattle University Community,
I am pleased to share that beginning this year SU will formally observe Juneteenth as a university holiday. As Juneteenth—June 19—this year falls on a Saturday, the university will close on Friday, June 18, 2021, in observance of the holiday. This will be a paid holiday, aligning with a bill Governor Inslee signed into law last week making Juneteenth a paid state holiday in Washington beginning 2022.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day that enslaved African Americans in Texas were informed by Union soldiers in Galveston, Texas, that the Civil War was over and that they were free people—two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.
Juneteenth is the oldest commemoration of the end of slavery in the U.S., specifically in the Confederate states. Also referred to as Freedom Day and Jubilee Day to name a few, Juneteenth was conceived by Black communities in the south and then across the nation as a day of empowerment and celebration of culture and accomplishment. In 1980 Texas became the first state to designate Juneteenth a holiday, and currently 47 other states and the District of Columbia recognize it as a holiday.
Seattle University’s observance of Juneteenth comes as our campus community works to address systemic racism throughout society and its impacts here on campus. As we prepare to mark the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd next Tuesday, it is important that we build on the momentum from yesterday’s Racial Equity Summit and our other ongoing efforts through the LIFT SU initiative to become an antiracist institution.
We each have a stake and a role to play in quickening the pace toward becoming a more welcoming, inclusive and equitable university where all feel a strong sense of belonging. As we commemorate Juneteenth, let us take up with a renewed purpose and urgency the unfinished business of building a world that is just and humane for all.
Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.