Chancellor Washington Commemorates Juneteenth
June 19, 2020
Today we observe Juneteenth.
On this day in 1865, less than one hour from where George Floyd was laid to rest, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War had ended and enslaved African Americans were now free. This was two and a half years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. June 19th became known as Juneteenth—a celebration that originated in Texas, spread across the south, and was ultimately adopted nationally to commemorate the end of slavery.
Today is indeed a day marking freedom that should be celebrated. But it has been more than 150 years since word of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached the far corners of the Confederacy, and the deep roots of slavery, racism and systemic injustice are sadly still woven into the fabric of our society. On this day, we should reflect on what this time in history means for our team members at Duke Health, within our community and across the nation.
In recent days, we’ve seen the very best of Duke Health. From the peace vigils to the walks of solidarity across our organization, we are standing against the systemic racism and injustice plaguing our country—side by side with colleagues who are moved to change our society for the better. Now we begin the hard work of turning those moments of reflection into a movement for real change.
Over the coming weeks you will hear about specific actions we are taking throughout Duke Health and Duke University as President Vincent Price shared this week. We have started with conversations to deepen trust and enrich our understanding of the history that has divided this nation in order to sustain the strength needed for the journey ahead. And we are committed to be the change that is deserved by putting our mission and values into action and caring for each other in ways that call us to engage the compassion of our hearts and souls.
On this Juneteenth in 2020, our vision is clearer about the stains of injustice that remain to this very day. And our understanding is clearer about the ills that have to be addressed. Working together, we will take the actions necessary to transform our organization and our community for the better.
With continued gratitude for all you are doing and giving,
A. Eugene Washington, M.D.
Chancellor for Health Affairs, Duke University
President and CEO, Duke University Health System