Beloit College declares Juneteenth a paid day off
Dear Beloit College Community,
This Friday marks the 155th celebration of Juneteenth, the emancipation of African-American slaves in Texas in 1865 and, thus, the end of slavery in the Confederate states. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution that formally abolished slavery in the US was not ratified until December of that year (if you have not seen Ava DuVernay’s brilliant documentary 13TH it is available for free and well worth the time). The “1619 Project” reminds us that there is an interminable time between the first slave ship to America and the end of slavery in this country – 246 years. A despicable length of time.
Yet, Juneteenth offers real hope that meaningful change can happen. It is a celebration of change. The aspiration to become anti-racist is one that has real milestones. There is both dialogue and action right now in America that feels like it will make a difference. No doubt it is nascent and fragile, but with focus and energy on all our parts, significant strides to challenge and begin to dismantle systemic racism seem possible.
Starting this Friday, June 19, and going forward, the college will be celebrating Juneteenth on an annual basis as a paid day off. We intend for this to be a collective opportunity to reflect on progress we have made on issues of equity, inclusion, and community while also re-energizing our personal and collective commitments to doing ever more effective anti-racism work in the future. We will also be reaching out to state officials to try and get Juneteenth more substantively recognized in Wisconsin. I trust that you are able to adjust your schedule to accommodate this change from your routine day. If not, please work with your supervisor to determine an alternative date.
I will be choosing to spend my day on Juneteenth reading Ralph Ellison’s book titled Juneteenth. I do not know yet what lessons it will teach me and what I will learn that will help me work with others to better focus Beloit College on a clearer path to being anti-racist. But I am confident that it will be a day very well spent. You may also be aware that the new film Just Mercy is available for free. This would be another really valuable way to recognize the importance of this day.
However you can make it work, I encourage all of us to try and find time on Friday to both celebrate real change and to ask ourselves what action steps we can take in the days and weeks ahead to be agents of much-needed further change.