Juneteenth Is Now a National Holiday, But There’s Still More Work to Do

Jenny Singer
Sat, June 19, 2021, 6:00 AM·10 min read
This Saturday, June 19, is Juneteenth—a holiday that celebrates the end of legal slavery in the United States. Last year, it coincided with an unprecedented national protest demanding accountability for the police killings of Black Americans like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Despite the pandemic, 2020 saw the broadest recognition of Juneteenth in at least 100 years. Thanks to public pressure, major companies like Nike, Target, and social media giants gave employees a paid holiday, while movies and TV shows shifted their premieres off the day.

This year’s Juneteenth will be different than any before it—this week, the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill to make it a federal holiday. But that move comes even as lawmakers in several states pass laws that make it harder to include anti-racist curriculum in schools. Many thought leaders have also pointed out that this does not necessarily mean that Black and Brown communities will be afforded a paid day off.

National recognition of Juneteenth should make the history of American slavery—and the preciousness of freedom—undeniable. But anti-racist activists warn that without conscious effort to understand and teach the impact of slavery, Juneteenth will become like most other federal holidays: just another big day for mattress sales.