On July 4th, 1776 the second Continental Congress of the United States of America ratified the Declaration of Independence and over the next eight years 291,557 brave soldiers would perish in the pursuit of freedom.
As a country, there are few things that we hold more sacred than the 4th of July and the freedom that it commemorates. Apple pie, grilling, and fireworks have marked this day for 246 years, and our entire nation has taken this day as a Federal holiday from work every year since 1870.
But there’s one little catch.
Not everyone was free.
As a nation, yes, we would finally throw off the bonds of tyranny and start the ‘Grand Experiment’ of America.
If you were a white American (and particularly if you were male), life was great. Suddenly you had freedoms that weren’t imaginable just a few years before. The economy was booming, land was plentiful, and there was nothing but optimism for the future.
But that doesn’t take into account the 20% of the population who were slaves. For them, life hadn’t changed at all. Perhaps a few had good lives with kind masters – but a gilded cage is still a cage.
And you can certainly bet they didn’t get a day off for the 4th of July.
The UN estimates that no fewer than 17 million Black slaves were killed as a result of the slave trade (not including the millions more who have suffered harm by white Americans since the end of slavery).
That means that 58 times as many people of color were killed as whites while fighting for their freedom and equality, and yet they have never been honored or even acknowledged outside of their own community.
Juneteenth is a holiday that celebrates the emancipation of slaves in Texas on June 19th, 1865; Texas was the final state of the Confederacy to abolish slavery. It has been celebrated nearly every year since then in communities of Color around the country, but was only signed into law as a federal holiday in 2021.
Just like the 4th of July, Juneteenth celebrations include picnics, barbeques, street fairs, family cookouts, blues concerts, and festivals of all kinds.
The modern holiday also places an emphasis on cultural education and remembrance, with celebrations of African-American and Black culture and heritage, soul food, the performing of plays, and retelling stories.
Some people may ask, “If Juneteenth is just like the 4th of July, why do we need another holiday? Why can’t they just use the 4th like everyone else?”
The Black community deserves to have a day they can call their own and celebrate their own unique and special culture, and most importantly, their history and struggle for freedom.
At Summit Maids, we believe in equality and we believe that change starts at the bottom. We are proud to honor the people of color on our team and the difficult history their ancestors have endured to get to where they are today. For this reason, Summit Maids observes Junteenth as a company holiday, and will not be offering services on Monday, June 19, 2023.
We know that there is still a long way to go, but perhaps by honoring this day just a few more people will learn about the history of Juneteenth and what it stands for and why they should care.
So for this Juneteenth, we encourage you to learn, to celebrate, to honor the people of different backgrounds in your community.
Or at the very least, enjoy some delicious barbecue and music.
Want to learn more about Juneteenth?
Start with Juneteenth.com and let your curiosity guide you from there.