Head of School’s Notebook: Juneteenth

June 19, 2022

Dear Friends,

The sounds of the Mesa are a bit different as I write today. The cacophony of machinery and hammering associated with the renovation of Raymond Commons – which will ultimately be our Inquiry Center – is most conspicuous. Preparations for the Cate Summer Institutes are also underway, as we anticipate the arrival of a host of young people eager to learn from Cate faculty. And we are still remembering fondly the fellowship of our first on-site Reunion Weekend in three years, which concluded less than a week ago and involved several hundred alumni from a huge range of classes. Seated in the middle of the tent last Saturday night was the Class of ’56, together again 66 years after their graduation.

Such shared history is meaningful, composed as it should be of the individual stories of all who have called the Mesa home over the last century. But history tells us that not all stories – and not all people – are now or have been over time given equal weight. This day, for instance, the 19th of June, is an auspicious one in history, often referred to as “Juneteenth,” the date that Union Army General Gordon Granger and 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce the freedom of all enslaved people. Although the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued on January 1st, 1863, it was not until June 19th, 1865 that the news of freedom arrived to enslaved people in Texas. Slavery in the United States would not fully be abolished until the ratification of the 13th Amendment in December of 1865.

Until last year, when President Biden declared June 19th a national holiday, Juneteenth was not a fully acknowledged part of the shared history of this nation or this School. But that is an error we can correct. Juneteenth is now a holiday at Cate for all employees, much like the 4th of July or Memorial Day or Labor Day. We honor this day and all that it represents not simply to Black Americans, whose fight to realize their “unalienable rights” continues, but to all people who are complicit in the world we make, the dignity we uphold, and the injustice we tolerate.

We hope that you will take this opportunity to learn about our shared history, to celebrate Black culture, and to reflect and recommit to our collective work toward the promise of freedom and the continued fight for equal rights.

Here are a few resources that we recommend:

I look forward to sharing more updates with you this summer as we prepare for the beginning of Cate’s one hundred and thirteenth school year.  In the meantime, I wish you a wonderful Juneteenth!


Ben Williams