Every year on June 19th, Juneteenth is celebrated and honored by Black Americans everywhere. This date is significant because it recognizes the most popular annual celebration of emancipation from slavery in the United States. On this day in 1865, as the Civil War was coming to an end, Major General Gordon Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved African American residents of Galveston, Texas, informing them of their freedom. While President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became official almost two years prior on January 1, 1863, those enslaved in Texas were not freed due to the minimal number of Union troops in the area to enforce the new Executive Order. When General Lee surrendered in April of 1865, the order was finally put in place. While Juneteenth has not always received the recognition it deserves, celebrations of Juneteenth date back to 1866.
As Juneteenth is celebrated in 2020, it not only honors Black American freedom, but should also serve as an opportunity to focus on continuing education and Black achievements; it is a day to reflect on self-improvement and self-assessment. Juneteenth is a day to celebrate Americans of all races, backgrounds and religions coming together to remember this painful period in American history.
While honoring Juneteenth might look different this year due to COVID-19, Juneteenth.com has created a list of ways to commemorate the day in the workplace, in the home, the community and more.
- Recognizing Juneteenth in the workplace supports corporate diversity and inclusion ideals and sends a signal that the company is truly dedicated to its diverse employee base.
- Challenge co-workers to present Black American facts, de-bunk myths and stereotypes.
- Discuss diversity, inclusion and equity initiatives and ensure employees that race and gender will never be barriers to their progress within the company.
- Bring in a remote guest speaker. Make this an important date on the corporate calendar. Contact JUNETEENTH.com for more ideas!
- Generally, a committee of local business and community leaders is formed to plan a host of events. In many cities, tens of thousands turn out to participate. Parades, rodeos, races, Miss Juneteenth contests and barbecues are typical for an outdoor celebration. School essay and poster contests are excellent ways to get the youth involved. Local businesses and city government come onboard as sponsors to keep costs low (or free) for attendees to the events.
- Review the celebrations to see how others celebrated Juneteenth.
- Host a community Juneteenth Flag raising. Invite school bands, elected officials, business and civic leaders to participate.
- Encourage your libraries, post offices, city hall to host Juneteenth displays.
- Encourage your neighborhood to decorate and display Juneteenth yard signs and banners.
- Rally local organizations to unite and collaborate on a special event in honor of Juneteenth. (Public discussion, outdoor concert, etc.)
- Organize neighborhood block parties and invite elected officials and guest speakers to attend.
- Identify individuals to receive community service awards.
- Plan a special meal and gather the family together to acknowledge Juneteenth. Decorate your table and door with a Juneteenth theme and discuss what the celebration means today. Emphasize the mandates of responsibility and striving to be the best you can be. Make specific pledges for the remainder of the year and ask for support in accomplishing your goals.
- Encourage your neighborhood to display Juneteenth yard signs.
- Plan a special gathering with friends to acknowledge Juneteenth. Exchange facts or quotes from history. Discern how certain significant and historical events have impacted your life today. Make it a point to thank those who have helped open doors for you to achieve.
- Take some personal time to reflect… then, look forward. Make a wish. Make a plan. Write it down.
While we know that by no means was this an end to the suffering endured by those enslaved, nor to the continuing impacts of the practice of slavery suffered by their descendants today, celebrating this act and this date can be an inspiration to us all as we strive to fight against injustices in our world today. AOII encourages you to take the day to reflect on what this moment in U.S. history means to Black Americans.