American University announces addition of Juneteenth to next year’s academic calendar

The University will be closed on June 19 in 2022 and onward in observance of the new federal holiday

American University announces addition of Juneteenth to next year’s academic calendar
A few students were still on campus on March 20.

Beginning next year, American University will be closed on June 19 in observance of the new federal holiday, Juneteenth National Independence Day, President Sylvia Burwell announced in an email Friday.

President Joe Biden signed a bill on June 17 making Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, a federal holiday. Legalized slavery ended on June 19, 1865, about two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

“But it represents so much more, from remembering the millions of Black people and people of African descent who suffered through centuries of slavery and the atrocities of segregation to championing the heroic struggle for civil rights and today’s ongoing mission for justice and equity,” Burwell wrote.

Burwell wrote that the University has commemorated Juneteenth in the past through scholarship and discussion, and will continue to do so by hosting events, holding discussions about the history of the holiday and by developing resources.

The Eagle reported previously that the University has been criticized for its ties to slavery. AU’s Working Group on the Influence of Slavery found that John Fletcher Hurst, the founding chancellor of AU and namesake of Hurst Hall, inherited one or two enslaved people from his father. Hurst freed the enslaved people when he entered the United Methodist Church at 16-years-old, according to Sybil Roberts Williams, director of African American and African Diaspora Studies at AU. 

“We know that AU cannot be excellent without being truly inclusive,” Burwell wrote. “Taking specific steps such as recognizing the Juneteenth holiday through our calendar and dedicated programming improves our entire community and reflects our values.”

kcarolan@theeagleonline.com 

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