Photo by Vitalii Abakumov
On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, officially making June 19 a federal holiday.
However, a recent poll conducted by Gallup revealed that “more than one in four Americans say they [still] know ‘nothing at all’ about Juneteenth” or why we celebrate the holiday.
One of our core values as Ethos is Always Learn, and as a DEIB firm that is continuously learning, we believe it is also our duty to share knowledge when and where we can.
Today, we are here to share why Juneteenth matters, why we honor it, and resources for further education.
What Is Juneteenth?
Many Americans still believe that slavery ended for all Black people in America once Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. However, not every enslaved person was aware of this news at the time. In particular, on June 19, 1865, almost two years after this order was signed, it was then that a group of enslaved people in Galveston, TX, finally learned of their freedom.
The exact order, announced by General Gordon Granger, stated:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
Why Does Juneteenth Matter?
To put it simply, Juneteenth matters because it finally meant that all Black people in the United States were freed from slavery. “The legacy of Juneteenth shows the value of deep hope and urgent organizing in uncertain times” (NMAAHC). This also means it is crucial to remember that while Juneteenth is a day everyone can acknowledge and honor, it largely, if not wholly, belongs to Black people and is first and foremost theirs to celebrate.
Additionally, Karlos K. Hill, a historian from the University of Oklahoma, says, “commemorating Juneteenth is important for all Americans because it helps us see all the ways that slavery still shapes this country, including…‘the desire to master and dominate black bodies.’” It is a day of joy for Black people across the nation, but it does not negate the fact that racism and racial injustice are still very much woven into the fabric of our country. 2020 was a stark reminder of this. As we celebrate Juneteenth, we must not forget that, in many ways, Black people in America are still fighting for complete freedom.
Content for Discussion
Giving and Volunteering
- National Bail Fund Network
- The National Bail Fund Network is made up of over ninety community bail and bond funds across the country. This listing of community bail funds that are freeing people by paying bail/bond and fighting to abolish the money bail system and pretrial detention is regularly updated.
- Movement for Black People’s Lives (M4BL)
- M4BL was created as a space for Black organizations across the country to debate and discuss the current political conditions, develop shared assessments of what political interventions were necessary in order to achieve key policy, cultural and political wins, convene organizational leadership in order to debate and co-create a shared movement-wide strategy.
- Loveland Foundation
- The Loveland Foundation is committed to showing up for communities of color in unique and powerful ways, with a particular focus on Black women and girls.
- Reclaim the Block
- Reclaim the Block organizes Minneapolis community and city council members to move money from the police department into other areas of the city’s budget that truly promote community health and safety.
- Black Visions Collective
- Black Visions Collective is a Black-led, Queer, and Trans centering organization whose mission is to organize powerful, connected Black communities and dismantle systems of violence.
- My Block, My Hood, My City
- My Block, My Hood, My City is a non-profit organization in Chicago that mentors underprivileged youth through educational programs and field trips. The organization focuses on providing opportunities in STEM, arts & culture, citizenry & volunteerism, health, community development, culinary arts, and entrepreneurship.
- Assata’s Daughters (AD)
- Assata’s Daughters is a Black, women-led, young-person-directed organization rooted in the Black Radical Tradition. AD organizes young Black people in Chicago by providing them with political education, leadership development, mentorship, and revolutionary services.
- The Brave Space Alliance (BSA)
- BSA is a vehicle to empower and elevate queer and trans voices, particularly those belonging to people of color, to allow its communities a seat at the table on key decision-making processes that impact the community of Chicago.
- What is Juneteenth? What kind of independence does it represent?
- How is Juneteenth related to the Emancipation Proclamation?
- Were you aware of Juneteenth growing up? Why or why not?
- What does Juneteenth mean to Americans? Why?
- How might we honor Juneteenth today?