Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States, honors the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 freeing enslaved Africans. However, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived to Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended that enslaved Africans became aware of their freedom. From then on the celebration of June 19 was coined “Juneteenth” and grew with more participation from descendants as they treated the day as their independence day.

Juneteenth is currently not recognized as a federal holiday, meaning companies nationwide require staff to report to work on the day; unlike the ‘Fourth of July’ or Independence Day commemorating the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The privileges of this independence was not extended to African Americans at the time.

In light of recent events, such as the murder of George Floyd, community leaders and Black Lives Matter movement activists have called for Juneteenth to be recognized as a federal holiday giving all, but especially descendants of enslaved Africans, the day off from work to rest and recharge. To continue our journey of racial equity and healing, Omaha Community Foundation President and CEO Donna Kush announced Monday that the Foundation will be closed on June 19 honoring Juneteenth and giving staff members time to use their voice, volunteer within the community or educate themselves about racism, or celebrate their identity.

“The Foundation and its staff are on both organizational and individual racial journeys, therefore it’s important to make space for commemoration, knowledge sharing, and connectedness,” said Kush.

To learn more about the Foundation’s equity journey click here.


Photo Credit: Omaha World Herald 2016