Jun 19, 2020 - Politics & Policy

States and corporations move to recognize Juneteenth

Elected officials, community leaders, youth and drum and marching bands take part in the second annual Juneteenth Parade, in Philadelphia while holding a red and green American flag

A Juneteenth parade in Philadelphia in 2019. Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The revitalization of the Black Lives Matter movement has brought greater attention to Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the end of slavery.

History lesson: Nearly two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and months after the Civil War ended, thousands of slaves in Texas weren't aware they were free until Union Gen. Gordon Granger issued an order on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas.

The state of play: Juneteenth is not recognized as a federal holiday, but 47 states and the District of Columbia formally commemorate the date, according to the Congressional Research Service.

  • Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) announced Thursday they've introduced legislation to make Juneteenth a national holiday in the Senate.
  • Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) has introduced a resolution every year asking the House to recognize the historical significance of Juneteenth. This year, there are more than 200 co-sponsors.

What they're saying: “Juneteenth legislation is a call for freedom, but it also reinforces the history of African Americans. We’ve fought for this country. We’ve made great strides, but we’re still the victims of sharp disparities," Lee told Time magazine.

Worth noting: It took nearly 20 years for MLK Day to be recognized as a national holiday. Rep. John Conyers first introduced the bill in 1968, four days after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. President Ronald Reagan then signed the bill in 1986.

Yes, but: Since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, and the protests that erupted after, states are scrambling to follow Texas and declare the date a holiday.

  • There are renewed calls for North Dakota, South Dakota and Hawaii to formally recognize the holiday, the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced he will support legislation making Juneteenth a paid holiday statewide and announced executive branch state employees will have the day off this year.
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order on Wednesday recognizing Juneteenth as a paid holiday for state employees.
  • Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney also announced the city will be recognizing Juneteenth as an official holiday, ABC 6 reports.

Companies recognizing Juneteenth this year: Nike, Vox Media, Spotify, Lyft, Twitter, Square and the NFL all announced they will be observing Juneteenth as a company holiday, per CBS News.

  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos urged employees to cancel all meetings on Juneteenth and said the company will offer a "range of online learning opportunities" for employees throughout the day, CNBC reports.
  • Numerous Chicago businesses planned to give thousands of employees a paid day off on Juneteenth, including Fifth Third Bank, per the Chicago Tribune. Lyft and Grubhub, which both have offices in Chicago, announced their local employees also have a paid day off.
  • Minnesota-based companies Target Corp. and Best Buy have established Juneteenth as an official company holiday, giving employees the option to take the day off with full pay, per the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
  • U.S. Bank, the fifth-largest bank in America, will be closing early on Juneteenth, per Minneapolis Star Tribune.

What to watch: Event organizers are capitalizing on the Black Lives Matter momentum to plan protests across major cities in the country on Juneteenth, per the WSJ.

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