BANKW Staffing is honoring Juneteenth, and will be closed for business on Monday, June 20th, in recognition of the historical end of slavery in the United States in 1865. We take this time to reflect upon the end of slavery, as well as the current struggles our African American communities still face today. Though people are indeed free, equality in that liberty – a liberty that is a fundamental element of the Declaration of Independence – is still a liberty that many struggle to obtain.

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is a federal holiday celebrated on June 19th, and commemorates the events of June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to inform enslaved African Americans that the Civil War had ended, and under the terms of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, all enslaved people were free at last.

Though the proclamation was made years earlier, it was up to enslavers to tell the enslaved they were free – something they opted to neglect until General Granger demanded they comply. The Emancipation Proclamation, declared by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, freed slaves owned in confederate states, but the abolishment of slavery was not a nationwide policy until the 13th Amendment was passed by congress in January 1865.

This holiday is often observed for celebrating African American culture and is sometimes called Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, and Black Independence Day.

Why is Juneteenth Significant?

The Civil War, historically, is the bloodiest war the United States has ever fought and for one simple reason: every death has been tallied as belonging to one country. Our country. With more than 600,000 lives lost, it’s tragic to acknowledge that more American lives were lost in pursuit of freedom for all than any other war that has been waged in the name of stars and stripes.

Though the holiday went widely unnoticed by many Americans until the protests against racial injustice following the wrongful deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of law enforcement in 2020, the holiday has roots dating back to the Civil War (1861 – 1865), as well as Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination in 1968. Shortly after King’s death, his Poor People’s Campaign held a Juneteenth Solidarity Day, thereby solidifying the event as a staple in the civil rights movement for equality.

Observance of Juneteenth is an important not only because it commemorates the end of slavery and the independence of African Americans, but also because the battle for equality for all is ongoing. Though we as a nation have long agreed upon the self-evident truth that all men are created equal, events of the past years have revealed in horrible light the truth of racial inequality. With massive international movements like Black Lives Matter still asking for the same basic rights as their forefathers decades ago, it is a civil rights issue that deserves recognition more than once a year.

How did Juneteenth become a holiday?

Texas was the last confederate state to recognize the Emancipation Proclamation, though it was the first to recognize and celebrate Juneteenth, with cultural celebrations going back to 1866. In an uncanny turn of events, the first state to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday was Texas in 1980, while South Dakota was the last, officially recognizing the day in February 2022.

Federally, the holiday was voted into being by unanimous consent of the US Senate in June 2021, where it was subsequently passed by the House of Representatives in a vote of 415-14. Hours later, President Joe Biden signed the holiday into law, making Juneteenth the newest annual national holiday on the federal calendar while stating, “Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments, they embrace them.”

Observance of June 19th has now become a common holiday for employers to offer a day off to their employees for reflection, acts of service, and celebration. When the holiday falls on a weekend, it is traditionally observed on the Friday prior to, as it was in 2021, or the Monday following, as in 2022.

How Can I Honor Juneteenth?

Though Juneteenth is the youngest federal holiday, celebrations have been going on for generations. There is ample opportunity to participate and celebrate the anniversary of slavery’s abolition as communities emerge to honor and celebrate the day. This year, the holiday also falls on Father’s Day, highlighting a special significance for Black fathers across America.

Locally, there are Juneteenth celebrations in towns and cities across New England from Friday June 17th, all the way through Monday, June 20th. Bostonians will host the Juneteenth March to Freedom on Friday, June 17th, and boasts “We will start with our Juneteenth Rally/March through Roxbury showcasing what Black brilliance and Black resilience looks like.”

On Sunday, June 19th, you can head to Cambridge, MA, to celebrate through the arts with the Cambridge Families of Color Coalition as they host Juneteenth Freedom Day: Celebrating Black Joy. Additionally, you can join the Juneteenth Celebration at the Brockton Fair Grounds in Brockton, MA. This family-friendly event is free and will include entertainment, games, vendors, and food!

In our nation’s capital, The Juneteenth Foundation is hosting a spectacular 4-day event called Freedom Festival. This multi-day celebration begins on Friday June 17th, and is intended to bring awareness the nation’s most under-recognized and under-celebrated holiday. With fun-filled events like golf tournaments, a career fair, and block parties at Franklin Square Park, this festival aims to make a lasting impression on how our country can celebrate this momentous holiday in the years to come.

If you can’t make it to an event in person to celebrate, you can tune in on Sunday evening to watch the inaugural Juneteenth: A Global Celebration of Freedom live from Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles at 7pm EST on CNN. Produced by creators Shawn Gee of Live Nation Urban and Jesse Collins Entertainment, this celebration of Black artists and musicians will commemorate the 157th anniversary of Juneteenth and highlight the ongoing fight for equality in the Black community.

Happy Juneteenth!

With such a serious topic at the forefront of this new-to-many holiday, the question, “Is it appropriate to say Happy Juneteenth?” is on everyone’s mind.

Yes! Across America, barbeques are lighting, rodeos and pageants are held, and Black culture is celebrated with loved ones. Wishing someone a Happy Juneteenth is widely considered the easiest way to celebrate this holiday. The reading of the Emancipation Proclamation or hanging of the Juneteenth flag is also commonplace.

Juneteenth is, above all else, a celebration of the freedom of all people in the United States of America.

About BANKW Staffing

Through its portfolio companies, KBW Financial Staffing & Recruiting, Alexander Technology Group, The Nagler Group, Sales Search Partners, and KNF&T Staffing Resources, BANKW Staffing, LLC is the leading regional provider of temporary and direct-hire staffing services in the areas of finance, accounting, information technology, office and administration, legal, human resources, and sales.

BANKW Staffing companies have received over 100 awards for rapid growth, business excellence, and workplace quality. Recognition includes Inc. 500, Boston Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work” and Business NH Magazine’s “Business of the Year”.

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