Juneteenth added as University-wide holiday starting this year

Beginning this year, Pitt will add Juneteenth to its list of University-wide holidays.

Juneteenth — short for “June Nineteenth” and often referred to as Black Independence Day or Jubilee Day — commemorates the effective end of slavery in America.

Because June 19 falls on a Sunday this year, all Pitt campuses will close in observation of Juneteenth on Monday, June 20.

“The call to make Juneteenth an official University of Pittsburgh holiday was refined in committee and evolved under the auspices of my senior leadership team,” Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said on Pittwire. “I am pleased to support this change and to support our campus community in recognizing our nation’s newest federal holiday.”

The University’s adoption of the holiday followed requests to acknowledge this significant historical moment from the Black Senate, Equipoise, the University Senate and other campus stakeholders.

Clyde Wilson Pickett, vice chancellor for the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion said Juneteenth is “an incredibly significant piece of American history. … Our observance as a community provides an opportunity for reflection on the long struggle Black Americans have faced in this country. It’s important that the University recognize this day as a holiday and is a small — but meaningful — piece of the University’s ongoing commitment to an inclusive and welcoming campus community.”

In September 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which was ratified Jan. 1, 1863. Its intent to abolish slavery, however, was stalled until the Confederate surrender on April 9, 1865, and the end of the Civil War.

On June 19, 1865, Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, and brought news to hundreds of thousands of enslaved people that they were freed. Emancipation Day celebrations began in 1866, and President Joe Biden declared Juneteenth a federal holiday in 2021.

University leaders who led the charge to adopt Juneteenth as a holiday included Gallagher, Pickett and Provost Ann Cudd, as well as senior staff members Dave DeJong, senior vice chancellor for Business and Operations; Anantha Shekhar, senior vice chancellor for the Health Sciences; and Hari Sastry, chief financial officer.

Read more about Pitt’s decision on Pittwire.