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Price: Juneteenth to Be a Day of Reflection and the Beginning of Eliminating Racism

The walkway by Abele Quad, named after the African-American architect who designed much of West Campus.
The walkway by Abele Quad, named after the African-American architect who designed much of West Campus.

As Americans around the country celebrate the end of American slavery on Juneteenth this Friday, Duke President Vincent E. Price is asking the university to use the day as a moment of reflection on racism and as a starting point to do hard work to eliminate systems of inequality in the country and within the university.

“We must take transformative action now toward eliminating the systems of racism and inequality that have shaped the lived experiences of too many members of the Duke community,” Price wrote in an e-mail message that was sent to all members of the university community.  “That starts with a personal transformation, and I’m prepared to do that work. It must end in institutional transformation, and that is the hard work before all of us. And that is my responsibility: to put my full energy as president behind that effort.

“That work begins today.”

Following a day-long symposium in which Black faculty, staff and students discussed their experiences with racism at Duke and in the country, Price’s message committed the university to several steps that will connect fighting racism with each of the five pillars of Duke’s strategic framework, Toward Our Second Century.

Among the steps Price cites are:

  • Empowering our people by expanding the diversity of our faculty, staff and students, with attention to increasing need-based financial aid and addressing salary equity issues and ensuring diverse leadership at all levels of the organization;
  • Transforming teaching and leadership by reviewing the curriculum, incorporating anti-racism lessons into it and ensuring every student leaves Duke with an understanding of the nature of structural racism;
  • Building a renewed campus community by requiring anti-racism and anti-bias training for all faculty, staff and students and providing greater support for those who are experiencing pain or trauma from racial injustice;
  • Forging purposeful partnerships within Durham to support struggling communities, create more economic opportunities for the local community and deepen ties with NC Central University, Durham Technical Community College and Johnson C. Smith University, a historically Black university connected to Duke through The Duke Endowment;
  • Activating our global network by strengthening outreach to alumni who are Black, Indigenous and people of color and creating significant connections between them and students on campus.

“These actions are only a starting point,” Price said. “Righting the wrongs of history will take time, and our efforts will need to be focused and sustained. We must also be far clearer about our goals and transparent as we work toward them.”

Price further said the university’s executive leadership will develop a structure for assessment, accountability and reporting on progress in these areas. The deans of the schools must have an implementation proposal by Sept. 1.=

“We cannot, on this Juneteenth, bring news of true freedom—freedom from oppression, violence, and systemic racism,” Price said. “In many ways, even after a century and a half, that goal sadly remains elusive. But today, we can bring news of Duke’s commitment to be partners on the path to achieving it, and to resolutely turn our attention toward the mission of anti-racism.”

Read the full statement from President Price here.