- June 19 is celebrated as Juneteenth, the anniversary of the day in 1865 that Union forces announced in Texas that slaves were free, more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
- Many companies are giving their employees a day off or a day of reflection.
- The holiday comes as companies are promising investors and employees they are working on tangible change to tackle systemic racism.
For 25 days, Americans have been demanding from the country’s civic and corporate leaders their plans to tackle police brutality and systemic racism during protests that have gripped the nation following the killing of George Floyd.
On Friday, Juneteenth, many of those leaders have a big first opportunity to put into action the rhetoric that has flowed since Memorial Day, when Floyd died in the custody of Minneapolis police officers. J.P Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon has said the bank is “committed to fighting against racism and discrimination.” BlackRock’s Larry Fink has said the firm will “not tolerate” shortcomings in racial equality within its walls.
Activists hope that that opportunity, albeit symbolic, will be part of the path to change.
“Symbols are cultural artifacts that move forward and advance things. You need those symbols as things because that’s how movements become institutionalized,” said Dr. Lynn Perry Wooten, dean of the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University.