Dear Members of the Fordham Family,
I write to you to remind you that (as I mentioned to you in a letter that I sent to the University community last June), the University has established Juneteenth (the date upon which news of emancipation finally reached Galveston, Texas, on 19 June 1865, more than two years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation) as an annual paid holiday for all Fordham employees. Since Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year, the holiday will be observed and celebrated on Friday, 18 June.
This Juneteenth also marks a tragic anniversary: it is almost exactly 100 years since the Tulsa Race Massacre. On May 31, 1921, a mob of white people stormed “Black Wall Street,” a wealthy Black neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma, murdering hundreds of its residents, looting their property, and burning their homes. Our own Dr. Olivia Hooker, a longtime professor of psychology at Fordham, survived the Tulsa massacre as a child. In addition to serving generations of Fordham students as a teacher, mentor, and advocate, she was the first Black woman to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard, and a pioneer in the field of psychometrics.
The unprovoked Tulsa attack was far from the only case of white violence in the Jim Crow era: I invite you to explore the University’s Anti-Black Racial Violence Resources page, and especially the books and multimedia conversations listed therein, for further information.
In the coming days, Rafael Zapata, our Chief Diversity Officer, will be sharing with you the details about the slate of programming that he, his colleagues and his staff, and departments across the University have developed for the observance of this important date on the University’s calendar.
Let us pray that the work of hundreds of thousands of Black Americans and their allies in the past year—a year bookended by the death of George Floyd and the conviction of his killer—will mark a turning point in our nation’s history. I know you join with me in the hope that the momentum that they have created will lead to the formation of that “more perfect union” of the Constitution, a more perfect union in which racial justice and equality will reign in our hearts and throughout our country.
Finally, please know that I continue to keep all of you, and especially the Black members of our community, in my daily prayers.
Joseph M. McShane, S.J.