In the last week, companies across the country have chosen to take the tragic deaths of George Floyd and others as the impetus to honor a holiday that recognizes the plight of black people in America.
Juneteenth pinpoints the day that the last slaves in Texas and more broadly the Confederate South were freed on June 19, 1865. More than 45 states have passed legislation and resolutions commemorating the day, with the most recent resolution passing in Montana in 2017, according to the Federal American Scientists. In cities across the country, parades, festivals and consortiums on black culture have been established over the years to shed light on the day. However, the holiday has not been designated as a federal holiday, which would make it a paid holiday for many American workers.
Companies, starting with Twitter and Square, recently announced that following the death of Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody, honoring Juneteenth would be in order to honor the holiday and recognize the day as one for “celebration, education and connection.”
“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,” Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey announced June 9.
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
On June 19, 1865, Major Gen. Gordon Granger came to Galveston, Texas, to inform a reluctant community that President Abraham Lincoln two years earlier had freed the slaves and to press locals to comply with his directive. On this day, Granger announced “General Order No. 3.”
Even with the order, slavery did not end in Texas overnight, according to a report by Gates. Many slave owners traveled to Texas with their slaves to escape regulations enforced by the Union Army in other states for some time.
Hella Creative, an Oakland-area collective, has compiled a list of companies that have made it public that they would honor Juneteenth as a national holiday. The collective has also created the campaign, HellaJuneteenth, to spread knowledge about the holiday and encourage companies and individuals to honor the day by not working.
"After weeks of turmoil and national unrest, a group of Bay Area creatives decided to channel their frustrations into impactful change," reads a news release from the organization. "The reclaiming of Juneteenth captures the zeitgeist of a national movement demanding support for initiatives that create safety, pride, change, and equity for the Black community. By bringing awareness to the rich history of Juneteenth, they are working to create a formally recognized & celebrated national holiday and further opportunities to help support Black-owned businesses."
A Change.org petition, Make Juneteenth a National Holiday in 2020, has circulated, launched by a 93-year-old Texas woman who wants Congress to designate the day federally, especially in light of recent events in the black community.
“I believe Juneteenth can be a unifier because it recognizes that slaves didn’t free themselves and that they had help, from Quakers along the Underground Railroad, abolitionists both black and white like Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, soldiers and many others who gave their lives for the freedom of the enslaved,” Opel Lee wrote. “My goal with this petition ... is to show the Congress and the President that I am not alone in my desire to see national recognition of a day to celebrate ‘Freedom for All’.”
The petition has more than 79,000 signatures, and it seeks to collect 150,000.
The HellaJuneteenth’s list has grown as several companies have proclaimed their support for the Black Lives Matter movement and commitment to having solidarity for black employees. Nearly 400 nonprofits and other enterprises will designate the day as a company holiday.
For employees who would like to invite their company to join this effort, the collective has created a form "Juneteenth Employee Request," which gives suggestions on how to ask your employer or manager to consider instituting that change.
Stephanie has been telling stories her whole life. Her interest in the written word started with short stories and journal entries about run-ins with classroom bullies as a child and matured to writing for her high school newspaper over the years. She has written and edited for The Tennessean, Augusta Chronicle and American City & County.