Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19th, is a holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, but while recognized as a state holiday in 47 of the 50 states, it has not received national or corporate recognition. Until now.
What We Know:
- Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and digital payment platform Square, announced on Tuesday that both companies will make Juneteenth a company holiday in the United States. Adding, that Juneteenth is “a day for celebration, education, and connection” and will be observed “forevermore”.
Both Twitter and Square are making #Juneteenth (June 19th) a company holiday in the US, forevermore. A day for celebration, education, and connection.https://t.co/xmR3fWMiRs
— jack (@jack) June 9, 2020
- Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day and Jubilee Day, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19th, 1865, Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and spread the news that the American Civil War had ended and slavery along with it. Although President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier, some slavemasters withheld the information from their slaves so Juneteenth became a symbolic date representing African American freedom as 250,000 enslaved people in Texas were liberated.
- Juneteenth is widely celebrated in the black community with local events, cookouts, parades, and other celebratory parties and reunions across America. Juneteenth has also been referred to as America’s second Independence Day or Black Independence Day as the Fourth of July, while largely celebrated as Independence Day in America, did not represent freedom for all.
- The Fourth of July is regarded as the birthday of American Independence, but the key fact is that the holiday symbolizes a day that white Americans became free, but enslaved black Americans did not. It wasn’t until almost a hundred years later that the Emancipation Proclamation began to eliminate slavery.
- For many, Independence Day on July 4th is a poorly and ironically named holiday because it represents the freedom of only part of our population. Abolitionist and formerly enslaved American, Fredrick Douglass confronted this in his 1852 speech in which he critiqued the clear hypocrisy of white Americans who celebrated values like liberty and freedom at the same time an entire enslaved population existed among them.
- Douglass, in the same speech, says, “what, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham”. This speaks to why there is a push for the national recognition of Juneteenth. The Fourth of July celebrates a day where freedom was granted to only some and Juneteenth is a holiday that celebrates the day freedom was granted to all.
- The #BlackLivesMatter movement has brought attention to this upcoming Juneteenth, at the conclusion of next week, with many across social media urging people to celebrate Juneteenth to commemorate this important historic event that has long been ignored by most of the American public and celebrate the continued push for equality.
So collectively, Juneteenth NOT the 4th of July right ??
— Litty.Lo (@iameloho) June 6, 2020
- Vox Media has joined Twitter and Square in announcing Juneteenth as a company holiday as well as creating a fellowship program that focuses on black journalists. Tobacco giant Altria also announced a company-wide paid “Day of Healing” to take place on Juneteenth to allow all employees time for personal reflection and healing. Additionally, Altria announced a $5 million donation to fight racial inequality.
- Dorsey announced that this decision for Twitter and Square is not limited to America adding, “countries and regions around the world have their own days to celebrate emancipation, and we will do the work to make those dates company holidays everywhere we are present”.
While white Americans are celebrating 244 years of freedom this year, black Americans are celebrating only 155 years of freedom. As Juneteenth approaches, we hope Americans across the country take Dorsey’s advice and use the day as “a day for celebration, education, and connection”.