You are currently viewing Juneteenth is at risk of losing its meaning – Axios

Juneteenth is at risk of losing its meaning – Axios

Juneteenth is meant to acknowledge Black emancipation from enslavement, but there’s a risk it could turn into just another day off, defined more by road trips and sales on mattresses.

The big picture: Corporations, retailers and some local governments are struggling with how to honor the holiday that commemorates the end of slavery.

Why it matters: Juneteenth became a federal holiday just last year. This year is the first time it’s been a holiday that anyone has been able to plan for.

What they’re saying: “When you live in a society like ours, there’s always the danger that these sorts of holidays will be absorbed into a kind of market, consumer-based. kind of logic or experience,” Eddie S. Glaude, chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University, told Axios.

  • “You don’t just want to commercialize it. This is not just another day where you just take off,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told Axios. “It is a day of freedom, of liberation for people who were once slaves and who were set free.”

Yes, but: Some companies are using Juneteenth as an opportunity for branding and community service.

  • Power Home Remodelingβ€” one of the nation’s largest exterior home remodelers β€” is kicking off an inaugural Juneteenth Initiative in Atlanta with a walking tour of Black historical sites and outings to Black-owned businesses.
  • Delta Air Lines and American Family Insurance announced their participation in Unlock Potential, a racial equity-focused hiring program for at-risk youth that aims to prevent incarceration.

Background: Juneteenth has been celebrated for years in Houston and Galveston, Texas, to commemorate U.S. Major General Gordon Granger’s issuing of General Order No. 3 during the Civil War.

  • That order announced that, in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation, β€œall slaves are free.” Texas was one of the last places in the U.S. where enslaved people learned of the Emancipation.
  • The day was marked for decades in the Houston area with cookouts, parades, concerts and lectures as a way to recapture the excitement of hope and emancipation.
  • Juneteenth celebrations became more and more prominent across the country in recent years and became a rallying point following the murder of George Floyd, which helped build the momentum to make it a federal holiday.

The bottom line: “Whether you’re having a barbecue and eating red velvet cake on Juneteenth and not thinking about slavery at all, or whether it is a program that has been organized so that we can think about it … without the holiday, those two different events wouldn’t have happened,” Glaude said.

Leave a Reply