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Juneteenth 2023: Celebrate Freedom Day with Thirdera

Juneteenth, held annually on June 19th, is a significant federal holiday in the United States. It commemorates the momentous occasion when the last slaves in America learned of their freedom. Originally a blend of "June" and "nineteenth," Juneteenth has become an important celebration of emancipation from slavery.

This holiday is known by various names, such as Emancipation, Freedom, Liberation, Second Independence, or Jubilee Day, and has traditionally been observed primarily by the African American community. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring enslaved individuals free as of January 1st of that year. However, some slave owners withheld this information, leading the former slaves to continue to work without compensation until 1865 when the American Civil War ended.

The arrival of Major General Gordon Granger and his Union troops in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, marked a pivotal moment. Major General Granger issued General Order No. 3, officially enforcing the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas, nearly two and a half years after its initial declaration. It was on this day that the remaining slaves learned of their freedom, sparking a jubilant celebration and laying the foundation for the Juneteenth observance we recognize today.

In essence, General Order No. 3 transformed the work dynamics for African Americans. It legally recognized them as "freedmen" instead of slaves, granting them the opportunity to work for wages.

As a modern-day African American employee, for me, Juneteenth represents the financial contributions my ancestors made to our nation's prosperity, despite being tricked into unpaid labor. It signifies freedom of choice in our work and emancipation from forced labor. Moreover, it underscores the role of knowledge; in integrating African Americans into the paid workforce. Although Juneteenth became a federal holiday recently in 2021, it is crucial to acknowledge the enduring financial contributions made by African American slaves in building our country.

As we celebrate Juneteenth this year, we should take some time to get a more complete perspective of the holiday, by perusing some of the history around Juneteenth as detailed by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History. More information can be found here.  

If you want to learn more about our perspective on this important holiday, read our blog Juneteenth: A Candid Perspective on Racial Equality and the Road Ahead authored by Sherry Burden and published last year. 


Addie Reid

Addie is Senior Business Process Consultant at Thirdera.
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