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Carolina celebrates, recognizes Juneteenth

"While this holiday has roots in the past, today it has come to mean more about our present and future. On this Juneteenth, we encourage you to take a thoughtful pause to reflect on our history and honor the contributions of the many enslaved Black people who built our institution."

The Old Well.
Fall campus scenes on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Dear Carolina Community,

We write to you today with new information and a request that could impact your schedules next week as our University recognizes Juneteenth.

On Sunday, the country recognizes and acknowledges the freedom of enslaved Black Americans. In celebrating Juneteenth, we reflect on the end of slavery in the United States.

Juneteenth, short for “June Nineteenth,” is sometimes referred to as Emancipation Day. It commemorates the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 to inform and ensure that enslaved Black people were finally freed following the end of the Civil War. The troops’ arrival occurred two and a half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This date has been celebrated by Black Americans since the late 19th century.

President Biden signed a bill last Juneteenth formalizing its status as a federal holiday. On June 6 this year, Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive order granting state employees a day of leave to recognize a day of cultural, religious or personal significance. UNC System President Peter Hans has authorized UNC System institutions to provide this paid Personal Observance Leave to all leave-earning staff and faculty. While the University’s academic calendars for this year had been set before these most recent changes, we support the celebration of Juneteenth and recognize that our students, staff and faculty may wish to celebrate the public holiday with their families or friends.

This year, June 19 falls on a Sunday and the public celebration will take place on Monday, June 20, which is the first day of class for Summer Session II. In accordance with our policy on holidays, and in recognition of the importance of commemorating Juneteenth, we ask that instructors and supervisors be flexible with absences related to the holiday and generous in accommodating those who wish to celebrate it. Due to accreditation requirements, we encourage students in the health affairs or professional schools to please check with your dean or departments regarding your schedule and exams. Staff members can learn more about their personal observance leave options on the Leave & Holidays page on the University’s HR website.

Going forward, the University will permanently incorporate the celebration of Juneteenth into the academic calendar to avoid this overlap.

While this holiday has roots in the past, today it has come to mean more about our present and future. On this Juneteenth, we encourage you to take a thoughtful pause to reflect on our history and honor the contributions of the many enslaved Black people who built our institution. We can also enjoy a celebratory moment in the present to reflect on how our Black students, faculty, staff and alumni continue creating, fostering and advancing the Carolina we’re proud to be a part of. If you are near campus, we hope you’ll consider joining the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Community’s Juneteenth celebration on Sunday afternoon.

Sincerely,

J. Christopher Clemens
Provost and Chief Academic Officer

Leah Cox
Chief Diversity Officer