“ … no republic is safe that tolerates a privileged class, or denies to any of its citizens equal rights and equal means to maintain them.”
—Frederick Douglass, 1866
Dear TC Community:
A year ago, Teachers College made Juneteenth – the commemoration of the belated liberation of enslaved people of Texas on June 19, 1865 – an official, paid College holiday.
At the time, we were in the dawn of a national reckoning on racial injustice. George Floyd’s brutal murder at the hands of Minneapolis police officers had sparked protests throughout the county and the world against systemic racism, and our TC community stood virtually as one in the fight to dismantle the structures of racism in all its forms. It had also become clear by that time that systemic racism – in the form of unsafe working conditions, high-density housing, and poor access to medical care and healthy foods – caused African Americans to suffer the highest rates of death from what we were then calling the “novel coronavirus.”
The decision by colleges and universities last year to make Juneteenth an official, paid holiday was long overdue. As Atlantic Monthly Senior Editor Vann R. Newkirk II had written three years earlier, “Juneteenth … is both a second Independence Day … and a clear articulation of the fact that America can never be free until her people are free. (It also) is the purest distillation of the evils that still plague America, and a celebration of the good people who fought those evils.”

At the same time, by celebrating Juneteenth, we also were challenging ourselves to honor the spirit of Juneteenth throughout the year by becoming more committed and effective anti-racists in word, work, and deed.

Our TC community made a good start toward renewing that commitment with great vigor. In their teaching, research, advocacy, and clinical practice, TC students, faculty, staff, and alumni joined with partners around the world to fight racism and all other forms of bias and prejudice, including sexism, ableism, and ageism.

It should surprise no one that TC students provided the impetus for much of the notable progress made over the past year. For example, April’s watershed conference on Decolonizing Psychology Training conference was first conceived last June by TC school psychology students who insisted that their program challenge racial injustice by integrating the experiences of people of color and those from immigrant backgrounds into the frameworks into all aspects of its curriculum, research, and professional practice.

It is also fitting that we began celebrating Juneteenth this year at the beginning of the month by honoring the great Dr. Edmund W. Gordon’s 100th birthday and legacy with a two-day national conference on how to make teaching, learning and assessment processes in schools ensure the “affirmative development” of every learner and give everyone equitable opportunities to grow.

Still, as history teaches us and Juneteenth (and recent events) remind us, progress toward achieving equality and racial justice in America inevitably encounters a backlash of resistance from white supremacists.

If, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us, the long arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, it is up to all of us to pour all of our hearts and might into bending the arc toward justice ourselves.
For starters, we can bend the arc by coming together virtually at 1 p.m. EDT today for TC’s first annual Juneteenth Celebration sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Diversity and Community Affairs. The event will feature a keynote by Dr. Annette Gordon-Reed, national historian and the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard, and the author of the historical memoir On Juneteenth.
Then, let us seize every opportunity to learn, to grow, and to act toward fighting racism and creating a smarter, healthier, more equitable, and more just world.
Thomas R. Bailey

Stephanie J. Rowley
Provost, Dean, and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Janice S. Robinson
Vice President for Diversity & Community Affairs