In advance of Juneteenth on Saturday, June 19, many businesses across the country, including Progress, will observe and honor Friday, June 18, as a paid holiday in the U.S.
Juneteenth (a combination of June and nineteenth) is a 156-year-old holiday celebrating the emancipation of African-Americans from slavery. On Sept. 22, 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation ending legal slavery in the United States as of Jan. 1, 1863. That same year, reminiscent of the original Middle Passage, more than 150,000 slaves from southern states were moved west to the state of Texas by slave owners attempting to evade or postpone notifying their captives that slavery had indeed ended.
On June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and roughly 2,000 Union Army soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. More than two years after the abolishment of slavery in the U.S., more than 250,000 slaves in Texas were surprised to learn they were free. As Granger informed slaves throughout the state that the Civil War had ended and slavery had been abolished, widespread celebrations of freedom kicked off across the state.
Those celebrations were the start of Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the emancipation of the last Black slaves held in the deepest part of the Confederacy.
Freed slaves in Texas marked the anniversary of June 19 with celebrations. As part of the Great Migration, newly freed Texas slaves began resettling across the U.S., resulting in the spread of traditions, such as Juneteenth. While Juneteenth is not yet a national holiday, 47 states and the District of Columbia all recognize it as either a state holiday or a day of observance.
A day of major significance in American history, Juneteenth celebrates African American freedom, Black culture and its achievements, while encouraging continuous development and respect for all cultures. In line with historic traditions, today’s Juneteenth celebrations typically involve a combination of religious ceremonies, oral storytelling, food, music, and joyous celebrations of Black art and culture.
Today citizens throughout the U.S. are still experiencing the trauma brought on as a result of more than 250 years of enslavement. For many Blacks in America, Juneteenth represents how freedom and justice in the U.S. have always been delayed for Black people.
Decades after the abolishment of slavery, Blacks in the U.S. were faced with a wave of lynchings, imprisonment and Jim Crow laws. The abolishment of Jim Crow laws was then followed by a disproportionate impact of mass incarceration, discriminatory housing policies and a lack of economic investment within predominately Black communities.
Today, the renewed fight against racial injustice in America involving police brutality, racially motivated violence and voter suppression directed against Black people has amplified the significance of Juneteenth. The holiday allows Americans to acknowledge and learn from the past in hopes of one day fully healing from historical traumas.
While a vast amount of progress has been made for Black Americans in the past 150 years, barriers continue to arise that impede progress.
On June 17 our Blacks@Progress employee resource group is hosting a Juneteenth Paint Party to celebrate art, music and culture.
Other ways that you can observe and celebrate Juneteenth include everything from supporting Black-owned businesses, reading African-American novels, learning about prominent Black figures and events on Black American history.
You can also check out the following:
Rochelle Wheeler is a Sr. Project Manager with Progress’s Professional Services Team and focuses on the OpenEdge, Sitefinity, and Corticon suite of solutions. With over two decades of successful marketing and project management experience, she has launched campaigns for companies ranging from boutique agencies to Fortune 500 enterprises. You can follow her on LinkedIn.
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