Dear Elliott School Community,
We echo President Wrighton’s words and join the GW community and our nation in celebrating Juneteenth on Sunday, June 19. While we observe Juneteenth on Monday, June 20, this important holiday commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union Troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, where General George Granger delivered the news of the Emancipation Proclamation, which had ended slavery two years earlier. Though this marked the beginning of a new chapter for Black Americans, the 100-year enforcement of Jim Crow laws perpetuated systemic racism and anti-Blackness.
Juneteenth calls for deep reflection. As a school of international affairs, we acknowledge the ways structural and institutional racism have permeated foreign policy institutions for decades, reflecting a microcosm of American history. Yet, progress has been made through the resilience and courage of many Black leaders. While there is still more work to be done, we use this occasion to celebrate the many Black trailblazers who have made significant contributions to the international affairs and foreign policy communities:
- Dr. Ralph Bunche, the first Black American Nobel Peace Prize winner and Undersecretary General to the United Nations
- Don Carlos Bassett, the first Black American to serve as US Diplomat
- Patricia Roberts Harris, the first Black woman to hold the rank of ambassador
- Colin Powell, the first Black American to serve as Secretary of State
- Dr. Condoleezza Rice, the first Black woman to serve as Secretary of State
Former Director of the Peace Corps Aaron Williams, alumna Taylor Jack, and Professor Jennifer Brinkerhoff's book The Young Black Leader’s Guide to a Successful Career in International Affairs: What the Giants Want You to Know highlights many more Black leaders in foreign policy and national security.
Juneteenth reminds us of our collective responsibility to each other, to advance the principles of equity and justice. It also underscores our school’s strategic priority of democratizing international affairs, lowering barriers to access, and expanding knowledge of this field to communities both domestically and around the world.
The Elliott School is committed to reflecting the diversity of the United States, and to broadening the field to actively include those who have been historically excluded from international affairs. Our commitment includes a focus on the next generation, and facilitating understanding of the importance of equity, respect, inclusion, and civil discourse–an active focus on becoming anti-racist and promoting racial equity. During this holiday, we encourage our community to learn more about Juneteenth, racism, and its connection to international affairs. The National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Juneteenth Reading List is a great place to begin. Additional resources are available through the Elliott School’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the GW Office of Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement, and the Multicultural Student Services Center. Our resource page includes recommendations to deepen our community’s understanding of race and racism in the United States and globally.
Dean, Elliott School of International Affairs
Professor of History and International Affairs
Vice Dean, Elliott School of International Affairs
Oliver T. Carr Professor of International Affairs and Professor of Economics
Jonathan M. Walker
Senior Assistant Dean for Student Services and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Elliott School of International Affairs