Juneteenth Initiatives: How Companies are Making a Difference

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, stands as a pivotal moment in American history. It symbolizes the end of slavery and the long journey toward equality. This day is observed on June 19. It commemorates the moment when federal troops enforced the emancipation of the last unfree slaves in Texas in 1865. This was a significant stride beyond the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.

Juneteenth is a significant holiday for all Americans. It offers lessons on equality, the evolution of U.S. citizenship and the impact of slavery on the nation’s history. It also highlights the efforts of past leaders to abolish slavery. Additionally, it provides an excellent opportunity for companies to encourage their employees to recognize and celebrate this national holiday.

Click here to learn more about the history of Juneteenth. 

Juneteenth Across the States 

President Biden named Juneteenth a national holiday on June 17, 2021. Although Juneteenth is a federal holiday, states differ significantly in how they choose to observe it. 

In a historic move, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey declared Juneteenth a state holiday starting in 2024. This decision reflects a growing acknowledgment of the day’s importance. State employees will be given the day off to honor this momentous occasion. 

More than half of the states in the U.S. now recognize Juneteenth as an official public holiday. This includes states like Connecticut, Minnesota, Nevada and Tennessee. These states have recently made Juneteenth a public holiday. Other states, such as California and Pennsylvania, offer state employees the option to take Juneteenth off. This can be in lieu of a personal holiday or as a paid day off.

Juneteenth Initiatives at AT&T 

AT&T (a Hall of Fame company) employees view Juneteenth as more than a historical date. It’s a day that signifies equality, unity and community. Juneteenth initiatives at AT&T involve employees sharing their personal journeys and participating in events that foster community engagement.  

For instance, Jackie Jackson, National Director of Distribution and Field Marketing at AT&T, highlighted the importance of connection through technology at local Juneteenth celebrations, demonstrating AT&T’s commitment to progress and unity. 

“Juneteenth is a day that I celebrate in my community. About 10 years ago, I created an addition to the Central NJ Juneteenth to include an AT&T Technology tent where we would partner with our New York/New Jersey Retail team and Employee Groups to share with the community how AT&T’s products and services and jobs connect people to new possibilities,” she said. “I love engaging with students and use this day to mentor students who come out to the Juneteenth celebration with their families.” 

Target’s Commitment to Black-Owned Businesses 

Target (No. 31 on the 2024 Top 50 Companies list) not only recognizes Juneteenth as a company holiday but also pledges to support Black communities through substantial corporate initiatives.  

By 2025, Target aims to invest over $2 billion in Black-owned businesses and increase Black representation within the company. The company’s Juneteenth efforts also include scholarships for students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). This underscores the company’s dedication to education and empowerment. 

GM’s Juneteenth Initiatives: Celebrating Ancestors and Community 

General Motors (No. 38 on the 2024 Top 50 Companies list) honors Juneteenth not just as a historical milestone but as a day that resonates deeply with its employees and the wider community.

GM’s Juneteenth initiatives are a testament to the company’s aspiration to be the world’s most inclusive company. In 2024, the company made Juneteenth an official company holiday, according to Chloe Kerr, Director, People, Culture & DEI Communications at GM. The company celebrates this day by sharing powerful stories from its employees. It engages in community service and fosters an environment of inclusion.

In a LinkedIn post from Juneteenth 2023, Kerr reflected on the significance of Juneteenth and her ancestral roots. 

As a descendant of Moses Kerr, who was enslaved in Mississippi in the 1860s, Kerr draws inspiration from her family’s history and achievements. For her, Juneteenth is a time to honor the sacrifices of her ancestors and celebrate the progress of Black communities.  

“For me, when I think about Juneteenth, I think of Moses and my ancestors who sacrificed so that I could be where I am today. It’s a reminder to celebrate the progress of our families and communities, which fills my heart with hope and a rejuvenated spirit to keep going – for them,” she wrote.  

At GM, Kerr has been instrumental in collaborating with The Juneteenth Foundation. In 2023, GM announced what Kerr calls the “19 for 19” Scholarship Program. The company awarded scholarships to 19 HBCUs to support STEM education.  

“What I love most about Juneteenth is it’s a moment for everyone to celebrate and support beyond just the Black community,” she said. “A mentor once told me that ‘as someone who works in DEI (at its core), you are advocating on behalf of someone else’s humanity.’ On Freedom Day, I hope we can all take a moment to think about how we can positively influence someone else’s path, even when it doesn’t benefit ourselves. That’s true freedom.”