Adding Juneteenth as an Institute holiday

May 05, 2021

To the members of the MIT community,

Holidays are facts on a calendar with practical effects in our lives and our work – and they are also resonant symbols of what we honor, celebrate and value. This dual role means that, for a community that encompasses as many cultures as MIT, altering the schedule of holidays takes thoughtful consultation.

Last summer, I asked Institute Community and Equity Officer John Dozier and Vice President for Human Resources Ramona Allen to reexamine our roster of Institute holidays with an eye to equity and inclusion. That process led us last fall to rename our longstanding October holiday as Indigenous Peoples Day.

Recently, after consulting widely with community members across the Institute, the working group that Ramona and John created recommended that MIT should designate a new Institute holiday for Juneteenth. Traditionally celebrated on June 19th, this holiday marks the moment in 1865 when the people held in slavery in Texas were finally told – two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation – that they were legally free. 

I am delighted to let you know that we will adopt Juneteenth as an Institute holiday starting this summer.

Because June 19th falls this year on a Saturday, it will be observed as an Institute holiday on Friday, June 18th. Human Resources will follow up by email to administrators about pay policies, including how to report time for this closing.

Embracing Juneteenth as one of our Institute holidays demonstrates that even things as fixed as the Institute calendar can change in response to learning and growth. Setting aside this day serves to acknowledge the stain on our nation of centuries of slavery. It also encourages us to reflect on the long shadow of that institution and to appreciate the ongoing struggle of Black Americans for equity, inclusion and justice. Recognizing the significance of this date in American history and taking the time to pause and deepen our understanding benefits us all. 

I hope it will also be a beautiful day for the human connection and rest we all need.

With gratitude

With thanks to the many employees who contributed feedback throughout this process, I offer special gratitude to Ramona and John for their leadership, and to the chair of the Holidays Working Group, Alyce Johnson, and all its members, who took such care in weighing the options. 


L. Rafael Reif

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Holidays Working Group

Alyce Johnson, chair — Human Resources

Ahsan Ali — Human Resources

Chris Durham — Office of the Vice President for Finance

Maryanne Kirkbride — Institute Community and Equity Office

Colleen Leslie — Office of the Vice President for Research

Stacie Slotnick — Human Resources

Christiaan Stone — Lincoln Laboratory