We now observe Juneteenth as an official holiday
Juneteenth marks the anniversary of June 19th, 1865, when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation after the end of the Civil War. It’s a day that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, and it’s a celebration of Black Americans’ freedom, culture, and empowerment.
So why is it important for us to close our business for Juneteenth?
Businesses only exist through their productivity, so halting all work and earnings is not a small thing. We are quite deliberate about which days we officially close West Arete; we do so only a handful of times per year. When we do close, we want it to be a way that we show respect. We want it to be a way that we can lend gravity and importance to the day; to say “this is more important than work.”
Here is what we ask our team to reflect upon on Monday: while we commemorate Juneteenth with a single day, the actual progress of freedom is often painfully slow.
It’s easy to think of “the end of slavery” as a single date. But just the legal milestones alone for ending slavery span several years in history—there’s the date when the Emancipation Proclamation first took effect, there’s the arrival of the federal troops in Galveston, and there are the separate dates when the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were ratified.
It would also be easy to consider these issues to be purely historical. But the extent of the protections granted by those critical constitutional amendments is still being debated in the Supreme Court to this very day, with significant consequences that are still to be determined.
So we close West Arete on Juneteenth as a small but concrete way for the business to show respect—to give pause and weight to these historic milestones of freedom and empowerment in our country’s history. We close as a celebration of Black Americans’ culture. And we close to recognize that our work is not done. The journey for freedom is thousands of miles, and we’re still on it. We must keep taking steps.
Here are some resources that we found to be helpful:
- The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture published an excellent series of articles last year that help to shine a light on what this holiday means at several levels.
- The full text of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Constitutional Amendments.