The 4th of July is right around the corner.  We will be celebrating our (America’s) independence from Britain, which is a major accomplishment considering we had to fight a war (Revolutionary) for America to gain its independence.  The thirteen colonies experienced taxation without representation, which was one of the driving forces behind the beginning of the War. Many considered harsh taxes through the Sugar and Stamp Act just to name a couple as justification for the War.  The War lasted just over eight years and although the War was still in progress the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776 by a Continental Congress, which leads to our yearly celebration of Independence Day taking place on July 4th.

While Americans celebrate the 4th of July not many understand the significance of June 19th (Juneteenth) in the African American community.  Juneteenth is celebrated by many in the African American community as the day independence was known to include them.  In 1865 General Granger along with Union Soldiers informed African Americans in Texas, Galveston to be exact, about their freedom from slavery.  It is estimated that there were more than 250,000 African American slaves in Texas at the time.  When General Granger shared the good news about freedom with African American slaves, it was more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, which was signed by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863 had become the law of the land.  More than 3.5 million African Americans were enslaved when the Proclamation was declared and more than 250,000 continued to be enslaved in Texas even after the Declaration.  

Juneteenth was first celebrated in 1866.  As African Americans began to migrate from Texas to other States, they exposed their new communities to the significance of Juneteenth. Numerous African American communities began to celebrate as they discovered the significance of Juneteenth, but then Jim Crow laws took over and halted most celebrations.  In the late 1960s we once again began to see African American communities celebrating Juneteenth day, which continues to be a significant day in the history of America.  June 19, 1865 was the day when the last slaves were finally informed of their freedom.

While we all celebrate the 4th of July as the day America declared its freedom from British rule, June 19, 1865 is the day that many African Americans celebrate independence too as that is the day, they gained some form of freedom from the literal chains that continued to hold them in positions of subservience.

Does your workplace celebrate Juneteenth?  How do you think the idea of Juneteenth could be incorporated into workplace diversity and inclusivity activities?  What type of cultural diversity activities could be included to inform everyone about the significance of Juneteenth?

“One ever feels his twoness – an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”

W. E. B. Du Bois