Written by Emma Hinchliffe
Giving employees a day off may not seem like the top way for multibillion-dollar companies to fight systemic racism. But a new trend in corporate America—the declaration of June 19, or Juneteenth, as a company holiday—makes a powerful statement, according to historians.
Juneteenth celebrates the date in 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned that they had been freed through Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger’s “General Orders, Number 3.” The day is the oldest commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States, but it hasn’t been honored as a holiday or taught in history classes throughout much of the country.
Last week, Twitter and Square became the first major companies to announce they would make the day a paid holiday for their workforces. The duo were quickly followed by Fortune 500 companies like Mastercard and Target; media companies like the New York Times and Vox; and fellow Silicon Valley and tech firms like TikTok and Lyft. Some companies committed to an annual holiday, while others made the change for this year only. About 200 total companies have now pledged to honor the date with a paid holiday.
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