This upcoming Monday is Juneteenth, a holiday marking the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. It is a day to honor the enormous contributions made by enslaved people in the United States. While enduring tremendous hardships and suffering, African Americans transformed the very idea of freedom in the modern era. Our debts to that transformation—in which communal care and well-being are integral to freedom—remain to this day. On this Juneteenth, may we be reminded that none of us is truly free until all of us are.
As the Vassar Inclusive History initiative begins its work, one of its first projects will be to investigate Vassar’s history with slavery. The history is complex and nuanced, and important for our institution to study, reckon with, and present publicly. Particularly as an institution chartered on the eve of the American Civil War, the Founding Trustees and early presidents were embedded in the historical moment of emancipation, and we have much to learn about this institutional history.
More information about opportunities to engage with the Vassar Inclusive History work will be forthcoming in the fall. If you have immediate questions, please be in touch with the leadership group: Dean Carlos Alamo, Professor Mita Choudhury, Professor Diane Harriford, Professor Jonathon Kahn, or the College Historian, Ronald Patkus by using the email VassarInclusiveHistory@Vassar.edu. I am grateful to them and the many other faculty, administrators, staff, students, and alums who will be engaged in this work—as Vassar remains unyielding in its commitment to a more equitable and inclusive world.
May we all have a meaningful Juneteenth.
Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604