Throughout this era of robust social change, employers are searching for ways to continue to foster diverse and inclusive workplaces that honor, support, and welcome all employees. In the case of acknowledging Juneteenth, we honor our African American coworkers, customers, family, and friends.
Recognizing the importance of racial and social justice dialogue in overall diversity and inclusion initiatives, many employers took the opportunity last year to demonstrate their commitment to those values by recognizing and observing Juneteenth as a paid holiday.
Now, President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris signed into law a bill establishing Juneteenth National Independence Day, a celebration designating the end of slavery in the United States, as a federal holiday.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas — two months after the Confederacy had surrendered. That was also about 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the Southern states.
It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983.
“Our federal holidays are purposely few in number and recognize the most important milestones,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. “I cannot think of a more important milestone to commemorate than the end of slavery in the United States.”
If you want to learn more, The STL has a brilliantly designed webpage that walks you through the history of the day. (That’s where this image comes from as well.)
It’s more than one day
While much progress has been made in the struggle for equality and racial justice, recognition of the holiday is not enough. We encourage everyone reading this to spend some time learning choosing growth. Here are some ways you can honor Juneteenth:
- Five ways to honor Juneteenth, ranging from reading Black authors to visiting US destinations that highlight Black history
- Support Black-owned businesses
- Support Black-led and Black-serving organizations
Just as we reflect on being allies to the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month, the Juneteenth holiday provides an opportunity for us to reflect on our allyship to the Black community and people of color.