Recent Black Lives Matter protests have caused many companies to recommit themselves to fighting racism and supporting Black employees in the workplace. Juneteenth, an important holiday in Black history, takes place on June 19 — and for the first time, dozens of companies are observing it as a paid holiday.
Juneteenth celebrates June 19, 1865, the day that the Civil War ended and all slaves were freed. Though President Abraham Lincoln had declared emancipation two and a half years earlier, the ongoing war meant that many Black people remained under slavery, including over 250,000 slaves in Texas.
On that day in 1865, the Union Army’s Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Texas to announce the end of the war, freeing the nation’s last remaining slaves.
Now, 155 years later, over 45 companies have declared Juneteenth to be a paid holiday this year, including Nike, Target, Google, Lyft, NFL, Spotify, Adobe, Twitter and the New York Times. Several of these companies made their announcements via Twitter, including Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
— jack (@jack) June 9, 2020
Recognizing Juneteenth is an “important opportunity to better commemorate and celebrate Black history and culture,” Nike CEO John Donahue said, per CBS News.
Juneteenth has been celebrated with barbecues, community gatherings, parades and other events across the nation for many decades, but it is still not a federal holiday. Activists are now pushing for this to happen, as it would honor the day with national recognition and give many more workers the day off.
The official Twitter account for Lyft announced that making Juneteenth an official holiday at the company was simply the beginning of its “journey toward racial equality.”
Starting this year, we’re making Juneteenth an official holiday at Lyft. It’s one step in our ongoing journey toward racial equality at Lyft, and in this country.
So, what’s Juneteenth? ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/DZjLbD8RBR
— Lyft (@lyft) June 13, 2020
Meanwhile, others are pointing out that observing this holiday is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to justice for Black folks.
“It is a nice symbolic gesture,” Meredith Clark, assistant professor of media studies at the University of Virginia, told CNN.
“I’m never going to frown at a company recognizing a day that is culturally important to so many Americans, really to all of us,” Clark continued. “But at the same time I want to see that sort of action matched with a commitment to changing the culture inside these organizations.”
The growing recognition of Juneteenth is a huge first step. How will you celebrate this year?