Harvard will close Friday in recognition of Juneteenth, the unofficial holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, the university’s president said this week.
It appears to be the first time the Ivy League institution has closed on June 19, the date in 1865 that a Union Army general arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced the federal orders freeing enslaved people in the United States.
Faculty and staff will have a paid day off Friday, and essential workers on campus will receive “other paid time off,” Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow said in a Tuesday message to the campus community.
Bacow said Juneteenth “offers a moment to acknowledge and celebrate the promise of a new beginning, and I cannot imagine a better year for Harvard to begin recognizing its significance.”
“These are extraordinary times distinguished by extraordinary displays of passion and resolve,” he continued. “We are everywhere reminded of the possibility of something different — something better — for our communities, our states, and our nation, as well as the deep reflection and hard work getting there will require of all of us.”
The addition of Juneteenth to Harvard’s calendar comes after three weeks of protests over systemic racism and police brutality after the murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other Black Americans killed by police officers.
Bacow reflected on the struggle for racial justice in his message.
“Each of us has a role to play in considering the past and the present as we work together to imagine our future,” he said, “and I am proud to undertake that important — and essential — work with all of you.”