Some prominent U.S. businesses are giving workers Friday, June 19, also known as Juneteenth, as a paid day off, a gesture to recognize the liberation of slaves during the Civil War.

Twitter, Nike and the NFL have announced they will observe Juneteenth – the day 155 years ago that African-Americans in Texas learned they were free from slavery.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said Tuesday that Juneteenth will be “a day for celebration, education and connection” at the company. Dorsey’s other company, mobile payment provider Square, also will make Juneteenth a paid company holiday, he said.

Nike CEO John Donahoe has said that recognizing Juneteenth is an “important opportunity to better commemorate and celebrate Black history and culture.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to teams on June 12 announcing the Juneteenth holiday.

June 19, 1865, was the day U.S. Army Major General Gordon Granger traveled to Galveston, Texas, to announce the Civil War was over and that slavery had ended. That day, many African-Americans were unaware that Congress had passed the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, six months earlier.

More than a century later, state governments began commemorating Juneteenth — shorthand for June 19th — as a holiday. Texas was first to do so in 1980. Most states now observe Juneteenth, with the exception of Hawaii, North Dakota and South Dakota.

“Juneteenth not only marks the end of slavery in the United States, but it also symbolizes freedom — a freedom that delayed, and brutally resisted; and though decades of progress followed, a freedom for which we continue to fight,” Goodell said in a League-wide email on June 12.

Juneteenth this year is Friday, June 19. At least one city will use the day to a host a virtual festival. Other cities have canceled Juneteenth parades due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This year’s Juneteenth comes against a backdrop of African-Americans suffering from COVID-19 deaths, massive unemployment from the coronavirus recession and loss of business ownership at a higher rate than whites. Black communities, as well as millions of protesters around the U.S., are also demanding criminal justice reform following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police and the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. 



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