Dear Members of the Fordham Family,
I write to you this evening to inform you that Friday, June 19, will be a paid holiday for all Fordham employees this year, and every year thereafter, in observance of Juneteenth, the date upon which news of emancipation finally reached Galveston, Texas.
It was on June 19, 1865, when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger along with more than 1,800 federal troops arrived to take control of the state, nearly two months after the end of the Civil War, confirming the freedom of the last remaining enslaved persons in the deepest parts of the South. Gen. Granger actually read the Proclamation to the enslaved persons that day in Galveston. The 13th Amendment was ratified six months later, in December of 1865.
If you sense that we came to this decision suddenly, you are correct: in the wake of Governor Cuomo’s executive order recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday for state employees this year, a number of you in the University community today asked about Fordham’s intentions to follow suit. We heard you, and we are. (The governor will push for legislation to establish June 19 as an official state holiday next year and thereafter, making New York the 48th state to do so.)
I have attached two documents as aids to our shared day of thought and prayer. Happily, there are also many new and excellent anti-racist resources now available, including a Black Lives Matter resource guide from Rafael Zapata, our chief diversity officer. In addition, Campus Ministry, the Center for Community Engaged Learning, and the Office of Multicultural Affairs will be sharing details tomorrow about a slate of virtual programming to be offered Friday.
In many ways this new Fordham holiday is a symbolic measure, and I will be announcing more concrete actions by the University soon. But symbols matter. Symbols inspire, symbols console, symbols define what—and whom—we care about. I hope you will take this holiday in that spirit.
Finally, know that I keep all of you, and especially our Black brothers and sisters, in my prayers during these troubled and troubling times. I will truly pray that what we are seeing now are the birthing pains of a nation that lives up to its promise of freedom and equality for all.
Joseph M. McShane, S.J.