Reflections on Juneteenth

June 19 is now a new federal holiday, a day that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

Swope Health supports the remembrance of this day and applauds the designation as a federal holiday. With the bipartisan legislation signed into law on June 17, 2021, as President Joe Biden noted, there is an opportunity to reflect on the history of this day as both a solemn remembrance of the “moral stain” of slavery and a chance “to make a better version of ourselves.”

The comments suggest the holiday offers us all an opportunity to learn more about our nation’s history and to take actions in our own communities, businesses and homes to achieve the promise of equality. As many have noted, Juneteenth is not just Black history, it is American history.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review summarized the history of the day in this way:

“Although President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery in the Confederacy in 1863, many southerners sought to evade the executive order by moving enslaved people to Texas, the most Western of the slaveholding states. However, Union troops pursued them, arriving in Galveston in the summer of 1865 and finally freeing more than 250,000 Black Americans. Enslaved people were then formally emancipated and slavery officially abolished by the 13th Amendment in December 1865.

“Juneteenth, also known as “Jubilee Day”, is sometimes referred to as America’s actual Independence Day, since July 4, 1776 symbolizes liberty and justice for only some Americans, not all. This sentiment is deftly captured in Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro,” in which he wrote, “This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.”

Swope Health stands committed to the ongoing battle for equity and justice for all.

Here are some suggestions to make your Juneteenth meaningful (adapted from the Harvard Business Review):

  1. Make it personal. Explore history of the community and your family. Commit to learning more.
  2. Expand the message. Think about ways you can work toward equity, access and inclusion in your own circles, whether at work, community or family.
  3. Enhance the meaning. Make it a day of service or action for others.
  4. Honor intersectionality. Make it a day of unity, with room for diverse perspectives, demonstrating an inclusive and equitable environment.
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