Dr. Bynum's Juneteenth Letter

Dear Hopkins Community,
 
On this day, 155 years ago, enslaved African Americans in Texas learned of their freedom. This was more than two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had become official on January 1, 1863. The Proclamation had little impact on some Texans due to the lack of Union troops to enforce this order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s troops, the forces were finally strong enough to force slaveholders to comply with the order.

Juneteenth, a holiday that has historically not been widely recognized outside of Black communities, is a day on which we must pause and reflect on what has been achieved. It's also a day to remind us of how much work is left to be done so that every American is allowed to live in dignity and realize the rights of full citizenship.

Our work in researching and recognizing our own institution's connection to slavery is currently underway. It is one of several initiatives outlined in my plan to help bring meaningful change to our school. Real progress will require both personal and institutional honesty and humility, as change will only come when we confront our own truth.

At this moment, our research tells us this:

Our school was founded amidst the beginnings of a great paradox in American history — one in which liberty and slavery were intertwined. Slavery in Connecticut was practiced until 1848. Hopkins School's relationship with slavery can be traced back to its benefactor, Edward Hopkins. Upon his death in 1657, his estate listed an enslaved person as property. At this point of research, it is unclear if this enslaved person was of Pequot or African descent. Reverend John Davenport, who was also instrumental in the founding Hopkins School, is also believed to have been a slaveholder.

While we cannot erase this history, we can continually confront it and learn from it. Furthermore, through our plan, we commit to re-examining our curriculum to strengthen the teaching of our African American history.
 
This year’s Juneteenth holiday comes at a moment of deep reckoning and reflection in our nation, as communities across the country grapple with the reality and legacy of institutional racism, amidst the backdrop of systemic racial inequities that have been laid bare by the pandemic. I encourage each of you to be an active participant in the endeavor to eliminate racism at Hopkins and beyond.
 
Sincerely,
Kai Bynum
Head of School
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