June 18, 2021

Why We Celebrate Juneteenth (and How You Can Too)

Meira McFarquhar
Meira McFarquhar

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This Friday, Sendoso has given our team the day off from work in observance of the Juneteenth holiday.

Sendoso Chief Alliances Officer and Co-Founder shares, “As a company, we care deeply for each and every one of our employees, and we embrace people of every race, gender, social class, age, religion, identity, sexual orientation, and culture. We’re extremely excited to be celebrating Black culture and Juneteenth with our Sendoso family, and learning more about the significance of this special day in American history. Our team has shared resources with our staff in preparation for the holiday, and we look forward to listening, learning, and reflecting.”

Whether you grew up celebrating Juneteenth or are unfamiliar with the day, here’s more information on its origin, and why the day marks such a monumental event.

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth (also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Black Independence Day, Cel-Liberation Day) blends the words “June” and “nineteenth”, and is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, with the triumphant news that the enslaved people were now all free. The news was met with shock and joy, and 155 years later, many still celebrate the crucial turning point in American history.

Granger’s message read, “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 at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

However, Granger’s message was woefully late.

The Emancipation Proclamation

It is widely believed that America freed all its enslaved people following the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln, but on the contrary, the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in the Confederacy legally in 1863, it was not enforced in many places until after the end of the Civil War in 1865.

There are various theories why the enslaved people in Texas were not made aware that slavery was over in the Confederate states for over two years. Some speculate that the messenger the U.S. government sent to spread word about the Emancipation Proclamation was intercepted and killed before he could reach his destination. Others believe that the Southern enslavers purposely did not acknowledge their enslaved people were free to go because they wanted to ensure slave labor for one last cotton harvest. Many historians argue that the Emancipation Proclamation only took practical effect in the South after the U.S. Army was present to enforce the order.

Despite the reason behind the delay, once the word was finally delivered, over time, formerly enslaved Black Texans soon headed north, west, and east in massive numbers to live free lives, and participate in building the country we live in today.

Is Juneteenth a Federal U.S. Holiday?

Juneteenth is celebrated by millions of people each year, however 47 states do recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday or recognition day. Juneteenth is even celebrated internationally, and countries like Ghana, France, South Korea, Taiwan, and the U.S. territory of Guam have held or now hold celebrations to honor it.

Juneteenth Today

After the June 2020 protests for justice and equality following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the Juneteenth holiday garnered renewed attention and the day has grabbed the national spotlight.

Companies like Twitter, Target, Adobe, Mastercard, Nike, and hundreds more have released statements of solidarity with the Black community and announced Juneteenth as an official paid holiday for their organizations.

Sendoso is proud to honor the important day in American history and stand alongside other companies to celebrate the occasion.

How You Can Celebrate

The first recorded Juneteenth celebration took place in 1866 (exactly one year following Union Major-General Gordon Granger’s announcement to the people of Galveston, Texas in 1865), and large Juneteenth celebrations have continued regularly into the 20th and 21st centuries ever since.

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Celebrations on Juneteenth within the Black community and beyond include concerts, family gatherings, parades, and public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation.

“Sendoso recognizes Juneteenth as a symbolic reference point to measure and appreciate the vital progress and contributions made by Black people to American society. We’re encouraging our employees to observe the holiday by peacefully protesting, volunteering, supporting Black-owned businesses, or enjoying any one of the many rich, cultural contributions to this country by Black authors, filmmakers, artists, entertainers, or creatives.”

Braydan Young

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate, we suggest the following:

Sendoso is thrilled to observe this great day in history and will use the time off to reflect, grow, and engage.

Juneteenth serves as a powerful reminder of how far we’ve come as a country, and how much progress we still have left to make. For as the saying goes, if we don’t know our history, we are doomed to repeat it.

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