Boston University

BU Adds Juneteenth and Indigenous Peoples' Day as Holidays

President Robert Brown said the holiday changes came about after he'd asked Boston University's senior diversity officer to work with its Antiracism Working Group to review the days the community celebrates

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Boston University is adopting Juneteenth as a holiday and renaming what had been known as Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day, the school's president announced Thursday.

The moves are part of BU's drive to make the institution more diverse, inclusive and equitable, President Robert Brown said in a memo to the community.

Juneteenth -- June 19 -- marks the end of slavery in the United States, specifically the day in 1865 when news reached Texas via the Union Army that enslaved people there were free. The holiday has gained more and more official recognition in recent years, and was added to Massachusetts' calendar last year.

Juneteenth commemorators and Black Lives Matter protesters tell NBC10 Boston what the holiday means to them, especially this year.

A movement aiming to highlight the cruelty and colonialism of Christopher Columbus has pushed to instead use the second Monday in October to honor native people, instead. Indigenous Peoples' Day is celebrated instead of Columbus Day in some municipalities. But other people argue that Columbus Day should be kept, since it's traditionally been used as a day of Italian-American pride.

The Indigenous Peoples Day Committee in Newton this year urged organizers of the Boston Marathon to move the 2021 race from the day this year. It had been pushed back because of the pandemic.

As the mythology around Christopher Columbus has been corrected, many are pushing to replace Columbus Day with a celebration of Indigenous Peoples' Day. A cultural strategist and diversity expert, Lauren Wesley Wilson, joined LX News to discuss the importance of recognizing the oppressed rather than celebrating their oppressors.

Brown said the holiday changes came about after he'd asked Boston University's senior diversity officer to work with its Antiracism Working Group to review the days the community celebrates.

According to Brown's email, a subcommittee of the group came up with proposals including these, which were adopted:

"• to add Juneteenth, traditionally celebrated on June 19, as a University holiday to celebrate and reflect on the meaning of the day in 1865 when the last enslaved people in the United States were told that they were free.
"• to rename the holiday that we traditionally celebrate in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day to acknowledge and reflect on our complicated colonial history and celebrate the traditions and achievements of Native Americans."

Indigenous People's Day in Salem, Mass.: PHOTOS

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