Pitt makes Juneteenth an official holiday


Rachhana Baliga | Staff Photographer

People view artwork on display as part of the Black Lives in Focus exhibition along the Omicron Delta Kappa walkway of the Cathedral lawn in September.

By Punya Bhasin, Assistant News Editor

Pitt announced Monday that it will add Juneteenth as an official holiday in the University calendar and close all campuses in observation of the holiday starting this year.

The University will close June 20 to observe the holiday, which falls on a Sunday this year. Juneteenth is short for “June Nineteenth,” and is often referred to as Black Independence Day or Jubilee Day, which commemorates the effective end of slavery in America.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said in a press release that the decision to make Juneteenth an observed holiday was decided by the Chancellor’s senior leadership team with his support.

“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,” Gallagher said. “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 and the Faculty Senate, as well as other campus stakeholders.

Clyde Wilson Pickett, Pitt’s vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion, said the observation of Juneteenth will provide an “opportunity for reflection.”

“Juneteenth is an incredibly significant piece of American history, as it denotes a pivotal moment in the emancipation process for those individuals who were enslaved,” Pickett said. “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.”

Provost Ann Cudd said she hopes the University community will think about further ways to uphold the principles of equality on campus.

“It is energizing and affirming that we are embracing Juneteenth in a new way — as a day to observe and reflect collectively,” Cudd said. “I hope that every member of the Pitt community will use this holiday to embrace the principles of equality promised to all and to think creatively and compassionately about how we can further advance and uphold those principles in lasting and transformative ways.”