President’s Office

President’s speeches, letters, and articles

Subject: Juneteenth

June 16, 2020

Dear Reed faculty, staff, and students,

Yesterday evening we received a heartfelt reflection and call to action from Dean for Institutional Diversity & A.A. Knowlton Professor of Physics Mary James. Mary’s message asks us to act in support of anti-racism and work together to address systemic racism at Reed. Today, we are announcing one overdue step: beginning this year, Juneteenth, Friday, June 19, is an official Reed holiday. This decision was made in partnership with college leaders, including the Office for Institutional Diversity.

Since Reed’s inception, the college has recognized July 4 as a celebration of America’s independence and the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When the Declaration of Independence was signed, however, these unalienable rights were denied to enslaved people. July 4 has never represented a celebration of the freedom and rights of those who were enslaved in and well beyond 1776. Juneteenth commemorates the liberation of southern slaves in 1865—almost 100 years after the nation’s Independence Day.

While many were taught that slavery ended when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, it took nearly three years* for the proclamation to take full effect. Texas was the final Confederate state in which the emancipation proclamation was enforced. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and stated, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

In the decades that followed, Black people across the country began to celebrate June 19, or Juneteenth, as Liberation Day or Freedom Day. The Reed community will now officially honor this important milestone in the nation's history.

We look forward to the day we can celebrate Juneteenth as a community without the challenges presented by COVID-19. To our Black community members, we hope that you take this day to rest, reflect, and renew with family and friends. To our broader community, we ask that you take this day to continue your anti-racism education and support Black communities at Reed, in Portland, or across the nation, whether it be through studying, engaging in dialogue, participating in civic activism, or supporting local Black businesses.

With hope,



Audrey Bilger

*Kentucky, having never joined the Confederacy, was not included in the Emancipation Proclamation and did not abolish slavery until passage of the 13th amendment in December 1865, almost three years after the initial Emancipation Proclamation.

Resources Compiled by OID

For more information on Juneteenth Oregon, check out their website or Facebook page.

Below you will find a list of articles and videos that will guide you from the year 1619 through to the present.

History of Slavery & Juneteenth

Article: History of Slavery
Article: What Is Juneteenth, How Is It Celebrated, and Why Does It Matter?
Article: What is Juneteenth? 
Video: What is Juneteenth?

Jim Crow Laws

Article: Jim Crow Laws
PBS: The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3 & Episode 4


Article: How Redlining’s Racist Effects Lasted for Decades
Video: Why Cities Are Still So Segregated | Let's Talk | NPR

Mass Incarceration

Netflix’s documentary 13th explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation's prisons are disproportionately filled with Black people.