June 15, 2022

Considering the Meaning of Juneteenth

By Alex Cramer

If I were to ask you when slavery ended in America, those of you who paid attention in history class might say something like January 1, 1863, which is when President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

And while that’s a good answer, it’s also a wrong one.

The Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves that were held by states that had joined the Confederacy. In other words, the proclamation only applied to parts of the country that the federal government had no control over at that time and not one chain was broken that fateful new years day.

In fact, it would take two and a half years of fighting and countless deaths before those words would have their full effect and bring freedom to the millions of African Americans being held in bondage.

Slavery didn’t end in the United States until June 19, 1865, which is when Union General Gordon Granger led his army into Galveston, Texas and proclaimed the black people living there, some of the last African Americans to still be held in the bonds of institutionalized slavery, to be free, and marked an end of one of the most shameful chapters in American history.

All of which leads us to Juneteenth, which is both a celebration and a commemoration of that day of freedom. Juneteenth has been celebrated annually for over 150 years, and yet, despite the significance of what it means, millions of Americans have never even heard of it, much less know what it stands for.

This has begun to change slowly, though not always for the reasons we may have wanted them to. In 2020, following the civil rights protests that tore through the country in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, many businesses realized that they needed to do better for both their employees and their customers and made greater efforts to increase diversity, equality and inclusiveness within their organizations.

That’s also largely why in 2020 Advertise Purple made Juneteenth a paid holiday for our employees. Because we felt that recognizing the day that America began to live up to its promise as the land of the free was no longer something we could just let other people do.

And while we understand that one day off can’t bring about the change and equality that we’d like to see in our country, it’s still important to commemorate the time period when more Americans gained their freedom than at any other point in the history of the United States.

What our team does with this day off is up to them and we don’t expect all of our employees to participate in Juneteenth celebrations or reflect on the meaning of the day. But we do hope that they’ll take a moment to consider not just what this day means but also what we can do in our own lives to further the cause of freedom and equality in America.

It’s long been said that America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. One of those things has always been true. The other is a goal that we must constantly aspire to and work towards in order to see that the promise of freedom is a reality for every American.


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