June 17, 2021 - Celebrating Juneteenth as a day of reflection and action

Dear UMSL Community,

This Saturday, June 19, is Juneteenth, which commemorates the day in 1865 on which enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, finally received word of the Emancipation Proclamation. The nearly two-and-a-half years that passed before every enslaved person learned of their emancipation foreshadowed the lingering effects of systemic racism that are still with us today.

As you may now know, history was made today as President Joe Biden signed a bill into law establishing Juneteenth National Independence Day as a federal holiday – the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established in 1983 by then-President Ronald Reagan.

In honor of this momentous, albeit long overdue moment, the University of Missouri–St. Louis will suspend operations tomorrow, June 18, to allow our community time to reflect on our country’s history, to celebrate African American freedom and achievement, to acknowledge the inequalities that still exist today, and to promote inclusive excellence and inclusive prosperity for all.

Given this short notice, university employees should check with their supervisors who will identify those needed to fulfill critical duties tomorrow that were already assigned. Some activities scheduled with external constituents and visitors will continue as scheduled. Any missed classes will be made up at a later date and employees that need to report to work on Friday will be provided an opportunity to take time off on another date.

I encourage each of you to commemorate our nation’s first Juneteenth holiday by participating in one of the many events planned across the St. Louis region in the coming days and to contemplate the words of Lois Conley, founder/president and CEO, Griot Museum of Black History in St. Louis, who said, “The best celebration of Juneteenth is for us to recognize and acknowledge the more profound intent of the actions that led to the creation of the holiday and not simply the symbolism that resulted. Perhaps with that as a basis we will begin to work for change, systemic change, that will elevate Black people and begin a process of healing.”

Thank you for your continued commitment to building inclusive excellence in our region and beyond. At UMSL, we recognize the strengths of individual attributes and respect individual differences, all while firmly asserting that we are better together.


Kristin Sobolik

University of Missouri–St. Louis