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Juneteenth commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States and affirms the contributions of Black and African American communities to the nation’s growth.

Beginning in 2022, the University of Rochester will recognize Juneteenth as an official University holiday. Juneteenth was declared a federal holiday earlier this year and was recognized by New York State as a public holiday in 2020. The official observation of Juneteenth reflects Rochester’s ongoing commitment to greater equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI).

Juneteenth commemorates the announcement of the 19th-century abolishment of slavery to the enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. The holiday has since affirmed the contributions of Black and African American communities to the growth of the United States while recognizing the ongoing challenges of inequity and systemic racism.

“I am truly encouraged by the decision to observe Juneteenth as a staff and faculty holiday,” says Mercedes Ramírez Fernandez, the Richard Feldman Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and the University’s chief diversity officer. “It is a culturally significant day that should resonate with all of us. It is an open invitation for everyone to reflect, remember, and celebrate the resilience and the contributions of our Black and African American communities.”

In recent years, critical initiatives such as Office of Equity and Inclusion EDI action plans, the Medical Center’s Equity and Anti-Racism Action Plan, and the REAL (Rochester’s Equity & Access Leadership) Conversations sponsored by the Office of Alumni Relations and Constituent Engagement and their partners, have offered tangible steps to move the University toward greater equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Rochester joins many peer institutions, including Cornell and Harvard, which have already recognized Juneteenth as an employee holiday, as have many major companies. University President Sarah C. Mangelsdorf says she hopes everyone will actively observe the holiday, and that she is working with Ramírez Fernández and Kathleen Gallucci, University of Rochester vice president and chief human resources officer, to develop a series of programs and celebrations to mark Juneteenth at the University.

“Although employees will be free to enjoy this holiday as they wish,” says Mangelsdorf, “I hope many staff, students, and faculty will take part in these events not only as an opportunity to reflect on the significance of the day but also to join with our community to further advance our collective goal to establish the University as an antiracist institution.”

Juneteenth 2022 will be observed on Monday, June 20.

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