Juneteenth: Celebrating Black Liberation and Opening Up the Conversation
This was the question posed by Frederick Douglass on July 5, 1852 before the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society. Like many present-day Black Americans, Douglass challenged the notion that independence could not exist in a country where Black people still experienced inequality and injustice at every level. 2021, and there’s still much work to be done. For this reason, many Black communities celebrate Independence Day on June 19, more formerly known as Juneteenth. Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 where more than 250,000 enslaved Black people in Texas were made aware of President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation more than two years earlier in 1863. Unfortunately, because many enslavers chose to maintain the labor force on farms and plantations, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865 — after the Confederate Army commander General Robert E. Lee resigned and Union General Gordon Granger took command of the District of Texas — that the enslaved learned their independence was actually granted. Granger put forth action to see Lincoln’s order through. Because of this, this day has become symbolic of the liberation of Black Americans. Although it has not been celebrated as a national holiday – and only just became recognized as a federal holiday – Black people have and will always consider the annual event as a moment to reclaim their joy and reflect on the lived experiences of their ancestors. It’s important for us to take a step back to reflect during moments in life and in history when we’re reminded of the realities of the world. We’re excited to share the perspectives of a few of our employees as they reflect on their own experiences with Juneteenth.