By Marisa Peñaloza, who is a senior producer on NPR’s National Desk.
Corporate executives and sports officials are joining a growing number of elected officials who want to recognize Juneteenth, a day that commemorates the end of slavery, as an official U.S. holiday. The movement is being fueled by the Black Lives Matter protests demanding reforms following the killing of 46-year-old George Floyd by Minneapolis police on May 25.
Juneteenth, which is on June 19, has long been an important holiday in the African American community, a time for celebration rather than mourning and remembrance.
This week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell decided to close league offices on June 19.
This year, as we work together as a family and in our communities to combat the racial injustices that remain deeply rooted into the fabric of our society, the NFL will observe Juneteenth on Friday as a recognized holiday and our league offices will be closed,” he wrote in an email to employees.
JCPenney CEO Jill Soltau sent a memo to employees telling them to take the day off “to honor the historic pain caused by — and lives lost to — racial inequity and celebrate racial diversity.” She added that it presents an opportunity for them “to learn, connect with each other, and reflect on how we can move forward and achieve permanent and lasting change.”
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced plans to make Juneteenth an annual holiday at both Twitter and payments start-up Square, and Newsweek reported that Nike CEO John Donahoe wrote in an internal memo that employees would be given a paid holiday on Juneteenth.
This year marks the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day. It marks the day in 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, and brought news that slavery had been abolished more than two years earlier.