Netflix, Target, Nike, McKinsey & Company, Grubhub, and Twitter are among hundreds of companies that will be giving employees the day off for Juneteenth on Monday, June 20.
Last year, President Joe Biden signed into law the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, commemorating the end of slavery in Confederate states after the Civil War and making June 19 a federal holiday.
The holiday celebrates the delayed news that President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, freeing all people who were held as slaves. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865, that enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned of their freedom from Union soldiers. Juneteenth—short for June 19th—celebrates this day.
Efforts to make Juneteenth a holiday began in the 1990s, when a group of New Orleans ministers created the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation after uproar over police brutality.
“We’ve put 28 years into this,” says Deborah Evans, vice chair of the board of directors for the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation. “I’m exhausted and exhilarated.”
While many states recognized the holiday, several have been slow to make it an official paid day off. Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Nebraska, Ohio, and South Dakota will make it a paid holiday for state employees. But lawmakers in Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee did not pass a measure that would close state offices and give public employees time off.
The slow progress isn’t surprising. Martin Luther King’s birthday became a federal holiday in 1983, but it wasn’t until 2000 that all 50 states made it a state government holiday.
“We know we’re not going to be able to rectify things overnight,” says Evans. “We’re taking in on small bites. But it’s important because it’s history. It’s something that if you’re going to tell the story, tell the whole story—and that has not been done.”
The holiday has taken on a higher visibility in recent years, following the police killing of George Floyd in 2020 and the rise of the Black Lives Matters movement. The number of U.S. online searches for Juneteenth has increased 870% since 2020, according to data by Conductor, an organic marketing platform. The firm analyzed search trends and found that more than 32 million people searched for information on Juneteenth this past year, and searches for “Juneteenth federal holiday” witnessed a 2,452% leap compared to last year, as well as information about companies offering time off and related activities near them.