Juneteenth: Why GPO Takes Off and What it Means to Me
Learn about the history of Juneteenth and what it means to GPO's Charlee Freeman.
While the Fourth of July celebrates America’s nationhood, Juneteenth (short for June nineteenth) marks the emancipation of black lives from the shackles of slavery. And if we’re technical, Juneteenth is also the day when all American lives were officially regarded as free. Here, I will explain what Juneteenth is, what it means to me, and why GPO takes off in honor of this pivotal holiday.
What Exactly is Juneteenth (A Brief History Lesson)
On January 1st, 1863, Abraham Lincoln released the Emancipation Proclamation. This executive order abolished slavery in Confederate territories, but the news was slow to travel. Until Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, TX on June 19, 1865 (some two and a half years later), black individuals continued to work without wages and, to put it lightly — in poor working conditions. The Union soldiers arrived with General Order No. 3 in hand, and it stated:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
Although the final sentence in this order implied that the road to genuine equality would be long and arduous, when eventually notified, the freedmen began to rejoice in prayer, feasting, dance, and song — much how this holiday is celebrated today.
What Juneteenth Means to Me
Juneteenth, to me, is an acknowledgment of what my ancestors endured for so long. And although many of them never made it to the other side, it was a significant milestone towards equality — where black individuals began to be regarded as human within this country.
Juneteenth is also a day to celebrate black lives, black futures, and black success. It’s where a path forward, though not without its own set of trials, became illuminated. Where our rights to live, breathe, and choose our own journeys began within this nation.
It’s a day to reflect on how far America has come and how far it still has to go. And it is also a reminder that the true battle for harmony is not won until equity and respect cover this land that we all call home.
Juneteenth, for me, is a reminder. A beacon for hope and peace.
How Can You Honor or Celebrate Juneteenth?
Growing up, my family celebrated Juneteenth much how we celebrate the Fourth of July — the ever popular cookouts, music, dancing, and laughter. One thing that always came up, however, was how my grandparents and great-grandparents endured Jim Crow. The younger generation would listen and realize that despite popular belief, this era and its residual effects were not that long ago — and in some cases, ongoing.
So how can you, black, white, or otherwise, commemorate this day and every day moving forward? Learn more about American history by reading books by black authors and watching documentaries on the African American experience. Go out and support black-owned businesses, donate to supporting organizations, and even join a celebration or parade. But most importantly, have intentional conversations about how you, the nation, and those around you can help to make this country a better place for all. And then, take action.
Why GPO Takes Off in Honor of Juneteenth
GPO supported my candidness — even encouraged it — as I, a black woman, explained the significance of this holiday. But it is important to note that my views are not those of every black individual out there.
When I joined this company and learned that we take a day off in honor of Juneteenth, I was pleasantly surprised. GPO’s desire to support and get involved was… impressive. Because the reality is this: We must all coexist — despite color, religion, culture, or background. And the exposure of working together can “help to create new bonds of friendship and understanding among us.”
Now, did I struggle to make this article more palatable for our readers? Sure. But taking the time to acknowledge this momentous holiday in the workplace is imperative to change, and GPO has afforded me that opportunity.
Although the company still has room for growth, as does the entire nation, the effort from my employer is appreciated. For this, I am proud to say that I work for GPO. A company that is open to listen, learn, and support the occasion that eventually led to me becoming more than just 3/4ths human in the eyes of this nation.