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A Day for Reflection and Celebration

June 19, 2023

Juneteenth National Independence Day

Dear YSPH community,

Today is Juneteenth, a day that commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States. Although President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863, it wasn’t until two and a half years later – June 19, 1865 – that the formerly enslaved Black people of Galveston, Texas, finally learned that they were freed from slavery. African Americans have long celebrated this day in tribute to their freedom, traditions, culture, and notable accomplishments.

In the aftermath of nationwide protests following the police killings of several Black Americans, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, President Biden signed the legislation that made Juneteenth a federal holiday in June 2021, saying that “On Juneteenth, we recommit ourselves to the work of equity, equality, and justice. And we celebrate the centuries of struggle, courage, and hope that have brought us to this time of progress and possibility. That work has been led throughout our history by abolitionists and educators, civil rights advocates and lawyers, courageous activists and trade unionists, public officials, and everyday Americans who have helped make real the ideals of our founding documents for all.”

In addition to being a federal holiday, Juneteenth is an official Yale holiday. In establishing the holiday, President Salovey invited all students, faculty, staff, and alumni to learn more about the activities of the Yale and Slavery Working Group, which is focused on a deep and thorough investigation of Yale’s historic involvement and associations with slavery and its aftermath.

Systemic racism, discrimination, and bias contribute to inadequate access to high-quality health care and higher rates of disability, disease, and death across a range of health conditions for Black Americans. At the Yale School of Public Health, we are committed to building and nurturing a diverse and inclusive community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni who are dedicated to dismantling structural racism and achieving health for all.

We invite you to join us in taking time to reflect on the extraordinary contributions that Black individuals – especially members of the YSPH family – have made to every facet of American life and to educate yourself about this country’s history. You can find resources (including links to videos, podcasts, and readings) for reflection and discussion from Yale's Secretary and Vice President for University Life on this website.


Melinda Pettigrew, Interim Dean

Mayur M. Desai, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

Submitted by Colin Poitras on June 13, 2023