“Absolute Equality” art installation by Reginald C. Adams in Galveston, TX

June 19, 2022 marks the second year that Juneteenth — also known as Juneteenth Independence Day, Freedom Day and Emancipation Day — is recognized as a federal holiday in the US.  While Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery, there is a deeper and very important story to understand.  Slaves were emancipated on January 1, 1863, but it was not until two and a half years later that Texas slaves were freed, when Union Army General Granger rode to Galveston and made the proclamation.

Think about that… two and a half years of continued slavery for Black slaves in Texas after President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed their freedom.  And Texas was not even the last state to free slaves.  Oklahoma was even later. 

Elaborating on all slaves now being free, the proclamation stated, “This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves.”

Freedom from slavery is absolutely to be celebrated.  It is equally important to remember that freedom did not come to every slave at the same time, and that following slavery many new systems were established that continue to make equality of personal rights and rights of property impossible for so many.  Think of redlining, voting rights, healthcare inequities, pay inequities, high incarceration rates.  This list goes on.

There is much to celebrate, and also so much more to do.  How can you help?  Challenge racial biases, seek out ways to be allies to those who may not have the same privileges you do, support Black and minority-owned businesses, and speak up when you feel there is injustice.  

To learn more about the history of Juneteenth, visit Juneteenth Legacy Project.

Michelle’s mission is to help companies create equitable workplaces.  She is the Founder and CEO of Equity At Work, helping leaders achieve major impact through their diversity, inclusion and equity work. Follow her on LinkedIn.