This resource is a starting point for employers to actively support and recognize Juneteenth, a U.S. federal holiday celebrated each year on June 19. Learn how your organization can recognize Juneteenth.
Juneteenth is a federal holiday celebrated in the United States. The holiday, which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, originated in Galveston, Texas. Juneteenth is observed annually with celebrations across various parts of the United States.
Use the quick navigation links below to jump ahead to a specific topic:
- The History of Juneteenth
- Why Juneteenth Is Important
- How Juneteenth Is Traditionally Celebrated
- Employee Considerations
- How to Recognize Juneteenth at Work
- Documentaries to Watch
- Books to Read
- Podcasts to Listen to
- Guest Speakers
- How Companies Are Celebrating
The History of Juneteenth
You may still be wondering: What is Juneteenth? The holiday is considered the longest-running African American holiday. Its name is a combination of “June” and “nineteenth,” marking the day when slaves in Texas were freed in 1865. Major General Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3, which formally informed Texas residents that slavery had ended. The announcement was made two and half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth is also commonly referred to as “Jubilee Day,” “Freedom Day,” and “Black Independence Day.”
Also this month:
- National Caribbean American Heritage Month
- Pride Month
- June 12 — Loving Day
- June 15 — LGBTQIA+ Equal Pay Awareness Day
- June 28 — Pride Day
- June 28-29 — Eid al-Adha
Why Juneteenth Is Important
In 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, making June 19 a federal holiday. Efforts to gain federal law status for the day were spearheaded by many activists for decades, including Opal Lee, who’s commonly referred to as “grandmother of Juneteenth,” Lula Briggs Galloway, and others.
While Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom for African Americans from slavery, it also serves as a day when African American achievements and cultures are highlighted. The holiday is a rallying call for the American collective, including companies and employers, to think about the meaning of freedom and the history of African Americans. Per the 2020 Census, there are 46.9 million Black or African Americans in the U.S., making up roughly 13% of the U.S. labor force, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
How Juneteenth Is Traditionally Celebrated
In addition to a proclamation from the U.S. president, Juneteenth celebrations typically include prayer and religious services, educational events, speeches, and parades across the country. Families also gather for food, music, and dancing.
Many U.S. companies and employers, including major companies like Nike, Best Buy, and Target, offer Juneteenth as a paid company holiday for all employees. African American employee resource groups (ERGs) may also create programming centered around the holiday.
Juneteenth Employee Considerations
If your company doesn’t recognize Juneteenth as an annual corporate holiday, consider making it one. It allows your employees to celebrate in their own way and amplifies corporate support for the holiday. If a corporate holiday isn’t financially feasible for your company, consider offering an extra day of personal time off (PTO).
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How to Recognize Juneteenth at Work
Review pay equity inside your organization. Look into salary ranges at your company and make sure you’re providing equitable pay for all employees, including people of color.
Support Black-owned businesses. Ensure your supplier diversity spend and your events budget includes investing in Black-owned businesses.
Share your DEI progress. Juneteenth is an opportune time to reflect on and share your company’s DEI efforts. Publish DEI metrics or share the qualitative impact of your DEI goals. Not only does this transparency show employees your commitment to uplifting Black and African American employees, but it provides an opportunity to create an open dialogue.
Invite guest speakers. Use a full-service speakers bureau, such as The Harry Walker Agency, to book advocates and motivational speakers dedicated to Juneteenth.
Host workshops. Build a more inclusive work environment by hiring a professional to teach employees how to talk about the holiday in a safe space.
Choose a TED Talk or documentary to discuss. Recommend it at the start of the month and hold a panel discussion toward the end of the month.
Here are a few documentaries to consider:
- “Juneteenth: Faith & Freedom” (2022; available on YouTube)
- “All In: The Fight for Democracy” (2020; available on Prime Video)
- “13TH” (2016; available on Netflix)
Partner with employee resource groups (ERGs). Give your ERGs the resources to collaborate or host events centered around Juneteenth. This is also an opportunity for your ERGs to partner with local organizations.
Create a day of action. Give your employees the opportunity to volunteer with local organizations, or partner with ERGs to host an event with a nonprofit in your community.
Host a “Did You Know” campaign. Trivia can be a great way to educate employees on facts about the holiday. Consider displaying trivia facts on office screens or in an email series throughout the month or the week of Juneteenth. For example, ask your employees: “Did you know that Juneteenth was officially made a federal holiday on June 17, 2021, when President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act?”
Organize an event. Create an environment where employees can interact in a safe space and give everyone the opportunity to feel included. The event can be for teams or a company-wide lunch.
Start a book club. There is a vast selection of books that recognize Juneteenth. Choose the book weeks in advance to give your team time to finish it before a discussion near the holiday, and consider gifting the book to interested employees if you can.
Books to Read for Juneteenth
- “Opal Lee and What it Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth,” by Alice Faye Duncan (2022)
- “Island of Color: Where Juneteenth Started,” by Izola Ethel Fedford Collins (2004)
- “Have You Heard? The Story of Juneteenth,” by Tara Pvel (2021)
- “On Juneteenth,” by Annette Gordon-Reed
- “Four Hundred Souls,” by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain
- “Homegoing,” by Yaa Gyasi
Podcasts for Juneteenth
- Code Switch: A podcast steeped in fearless conversations about race which is hosted by two journalists of color. The hosts, Shereen Marisol Meraji and Gene Demby, who have backgrounds in journalism, explore how race affects every aspect of society, including the workplace. The duo tackles the subject of race with empathy and humor.
- Beyond Black History Month: This multidimensional podcast examines what it means to be Black in America. Femi Redwood also discusses Juneteenth and the freedom of slaves in Texas.
- Today, Explained: A podcast from Vox that takes a deep dive into historical moments in America. Its Juneteenth episode explains how freedom for African Americans in the South became a national holiday.
Guest Speakers for Juneteenth
- Bozoma Saint John (she/her) has been described as a trailblazing and genuine change agent. Saint John is a hall of fame-inducted marketing executive, author, and entrepreneur. In 2021, Forbes named her one of the World’s Most Influential CMOs for her bold thinking and cutting-edge ideas. Throughout her career, Saint John has worked at Netflix, Pepsi, Apple, and Uber.
- Stacey Abrams (she/her) is a political leader and voting rights activist who was elected as the Democratic nominee to be governor of Georgia. As the first Black woman to be a gubernatorial nominee of a major party, Abrams uses her platform to champion equity for all people.
- Kahlil Greene (he/him) was thrust into the national spotlight after he was elected as Yale University’s first Black student body president. Greene is a social media influencer who preaches racial justice across all mediums of academia. He provides a unique Gen Z perspective on workplace interventions and DEI strategies.
How Companies Are Celebrating Juneteenth
Companies may opt to give employees the day off in recognition of Juneteenth or create educational opportunities and events. Columbia University created a video “Why Do We Celebrate Juneteenth?”.
Here are a few upcoming city-wide celebrations:
- June 15-17 — Tulsa Juneteenth Festival
- June 15-18 — Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas
- June 16-18 — NY Presents: Kaleidoscope of Black Culture
- June 16-18 — Juneteenth Atlanta Parade and Music Festival
- June 16 — Houston Juneteenth Urban Takeover
- June 17 — Juneteenth Dallas 4K Walk & Festival
- June 17-18 — Buffalo’s Juneteenth Festival (48th consecutive year)
Visit our DEI calendar for a complete list of holidays, events, and commemorations for DEI leaders to recognize throughout the year.