- Artists, corporations, sports leagues, and bipartisan government representatives call for Juneteenth to be declared a National Federal US Holiday.
June 19 is not just another date in the calendar, it represents the anniversary of the abolishment of slavery in the United States. Despite President Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865 that the entire nation ended slavery after Union General Gordon Granger led the troops to Texas to spread the word that the Civil War ended and African Americans still in bondage were now free.
After now 155 years since and amid nationwide anti-racism protests sparked by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many others, many prominent voices are calling to honor Freedom Day and declare Juneteenth as a recognized national Federal holiday.
“Personally, I’ve made the decision to give all of my employees June 19th off in honor of Freedom Day from now on,” Taylor Swift wrote on Instagram, alongside a video from The Root that explained the significance of Juneteenth, “and to continue to educate myself on the history that brought us to this present moment.”
“For my family, everything that has transpired recently gives us an opportunity to reflect, listen, and reprogram any part of our lives that hasn’t been loudly and ferociously anti-racist, and to never let privilege lie dormant when it could be used to stand up for what’s right,” she continued.
Artist and actor Usher also voiced the need to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday in an op-ed piece for The Washington Post.
“There has never been a more urgent time than now to get this done,” the Grammy Award-winner wrote, “recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday would be a small gesture compared with the greater social needs of black people in America, but it can remind us of our journey toward freedom, and the work America still has to do. We could observe it, as many black Americans already do, by celebrating both our first step toward freedom as black people in America and also the many contributions to this land: the construction of Black Wall Street; the invention of jazz, rock n’ roll, hip-hop and R&B; and all the entrepreneurship and business brilliance, extraordinary cuisine, sports excellence, political power and global cultural influence black Americans have given the world.”
Usher added “And rather than observing Juneteenth as we do other holidays, by taking it off, we can make it a day when black culture, black entrepreneurship and black business get our support. A national Juneteenth observance can affirm that Black Lives Matter!”
Corporations and professional sports leagues have taken action to honor Juneteenth as a day to celebrate the African American community.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in an email to employees on commemorating the day, stating “This year, as we work together as a family and in our communities to combat the racial injustices that remain deeply rooted into the fabric of our society, the NFL will observe Juneteenth on Friday as a recognized holiday and our league offices will be closed.”
Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted that both Twitter and Square will honor Juneteenth as a company recognized holiday in honor and support for the black community and culture. “Countries and regions around the world have their own days to celebrate emancipation, and we will do the work to make those dates company holidays everywhere we are present,” he wrote.
Elon Musk also tweeted Friday that both Tesla and SpaceX would honor Juneteenth as a national holiday.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshani gave all employees a paid day off to reflect on the meaning of Juneteenth. “To embrace the meaning of #Juneteenth this year, we’re making it a paid day off. We encourage employees to spend it in a way that allows them to stand up against racism, whether that’s by learning, participating in a community action, or reflecting on how to make change,” he tweeted.
President Trump made the statement on Wednesday that he was looking at the possibility of designating Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas tweeted Thursday on the intent to introduce a bill to make Juneteenth a national holiday. “Texans have celebrated this end to slavery for 155 years. It’s an opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come and a reminder of how far we still have to go,” Cornyn wrote.
Bipartisan calls soon intensified on commemorating the end of slavery. After Cornyn’s tweet, Senate Democrats moved to introduced Friday the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, which would make Juneteenth the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Day was recognized in 1983.
“Together with my colleagues Cory Booker, Tina Smith, and Ed Markey, we are proposing that Juneteenth be a national holiday. And we are dropping that bill saying that Juneteenth should be a national holiday,” Senator Kamala Harris, D-Calif, told MSNBC about the bill Thursday.
“Juneteenth is about reclaiming our history, rejoicing in the progress we’ve made, and recommitting to the work yet undone. Our nation still has a long way to go to reckon with and overcome the dark legacy of slavery and the violence and injustice that has persisted after its end. Making Juneteenth a federal holiday represents a step forward in the journey of healing America is still taking,” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said in a statement.