Curry: Juneteenth is part of America’s rich and complex history

Curry: Juneteenth is part of America’s rich and complex history

Michael Curry P ‘26, president and CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers as well as a member of the Thayer Academy Board of Trustees, is a passionate student of United States history. 

All of it. 

“American history, taught the right way, is fascinating — good, bad, and ugly,” said Curry, who added that high school students at Thayer and elsewhere can handle the hard truths of their own history and be better citizens for the experience. 

One such moment in history is Juneteenth, which is celebrated today (June 19). The observance, which became a federal holiday in 2021, commemorates the events of June 19, 1865, when U.S. Major General Gordon Granger informed those living in slavery in Galveston, Texas, that they were free, essentially making good on the promise of President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation from more than two years earlier. It’s a day to reflect upon all that has been accomplished in the struggle of Black Americans to achieve equity and justice while acknowledging the shared work that still needs to be done. 

Curry addressed Upper
School students at the
inaugural Tiger Unity Summit
in February

For Curry, holidays like Juneteenth help to fill in the gaps and provide a more honest and complete telling of the American experience. 

“We have all this rich history, but we’ve missed certain markers in that tremendous history,” Curry said. “We’ve missed certain moments in that history that more inclusively speak to how democracy can work for all people.” 

Curry touched upon that theme earlier this past school year when he addressed a late February Upper School assembly to kick off the inaugural Tiger Unity Summit. Organized by Thayer’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEIB) Office, the summit offered a weeklong series of events and workshops centered on inclusion, identity, and awareness. According to DEIB Director Matt Ghiden, Curry’s talk provided a thorough historical grounding for a summit which sought to empower students to think more critically about their world in general, including the complex identities that we all hold. 

“It was a great jumping-off point for the critical thinking that’s necessary in the dialogue that we had that week,” Ghiden said. 

Both Curry and Ghiden connected the ongoing DEIB work at Thayer to the Academy’s mission of educating students with 21st century skills, including communicating across lines of difference. Curry pointed out that Thayer’s newly minted graduates from the Class of 2024 would all too soon graduate from college and enter the workforce. Today’s students, he said, are tomorrow’s teachers, doctors, police officers, scientists, and engineers, which makes DEIB issues a core part of a modern-day curriculum. 

“They’re getting the tools to be the best possible professional, whatever field they decide to go into,” said Curry of Thayer students. “They’ll have a wider lens than most people around them.” 

Curry, an attorney and frequent commentator on National Public Radio who is also the immediate past president of the Boston Branch of the NAACP, said he’s proud to be a part of the difficult but necessary dialogue taking place on Thayer’s campus. 

“Conversations take courage, and I’m grateful that Thayer is providing space for those courageous conversations,” he said.

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