On June 19, 1865, Union Major General Gordon Granger read federal orders stating that all enslaved people in Texas were free. To honor and recognize this event a holiday was created called Juneteenth.
As of 2020, 47 states officially recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday or day of observance.
This year a number of companies have made public how they will recognize this day. Automakers Ford, GM and Fiat will hold moments of silence.
General Motors President Mark Reuss addressed the importance of the holiday, in a message to employees, as reported by CNBC. “I really believe eight-plus minutes of solid reflection will benefit everyone. I’m sure many of you have felt the same glut of emotions I have while watching recent events unfold … disbelief, anger, shame, grief, and ultimately heartbreak. This is not who we are as humankind, nor as a country. We can and must be better than this.”
In addition to the moments of silence, Ford is hosting a dialogue with Lt. Colonel Harry Stewart, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, an all-Black military unit that flew combat missions during World War II.
Fiat Chrysler will also observe moments of silence, “This is our way to honor his memory and those of other black Americans persecuted by systemic racism,” said Mark Stewart, Fiat Chrysler chief operating officer for North America, in a message to employees as reported by CNBC.
Nike has been one of the more prominent voices regarding this event and employees are given the day off as a paid holiday. CEO John Donahoe said the recognition is an “important opportunity to better commemorate and celebrate Black history and culture,” per the two-page memo obtained by Forbes.
At food conglomerate Mondelez International, its U.S. unit is also making Juneteenth a paid holiday.
These companies represent some of the many companies, both large and small, who are honoring the day in a variety of ways.
For companies looking for ways to recognize the holiday, Deven Kinney, in an article on Diverse Best Practices, offers some suggestions.
- Use the day as an opportunity to hold listening and essential conversations about race
- Celebrate and recognize the contributions of your Black employees, leaders, and stakeholders
- “Look under the covers” to assess your talent processes and systems to eliminate bias and ensure equitable promotion and advancement opportunities
- Use it as a day of service
- Use the company’s social media platforms to promote Juneteenth and to celebrate Black culture and Black history throughout the day