Liberty Mutual announces that it will begin to observe Juneteenth
In response to the growing trend to recognize Juneteenth (June 19) as an official holiday, two national insurers, Liberty Mutual and Allstate, announced this week that they will begin to observe Juneteenth as a company-wide paid holiday.
In a June 18th LinkedIn post, David Long, the Chairman, and CEO of Boston-based Liberty Mutual announced that all of the company’s employees would be given the day off on Juneteenth. The following is the statement he made on LinkedIn:
“Liberty Mutual employees will be given the day off on Juneteenth to reflect, connect and learn as we continue to face painful racial injustices of the past and present and extraordinary challenges across the nation. We support our Black employees, customers, and communities on this significant day in our history, and every day, and will do the hard work together to take meaningful action both inside and outside our company.”
Allstate also announces that it will observe Juneteenth
Similar to Liberty Mutual, Allstate also announced on June 18th that the company would officially observe Juneteenth. In explaining its decision to its customers, the company posted the following statement on its social media profiles:
“This Friday will mark the first company-wide observance of Juneteenth, giving our employees time and space to reflect, celebrate, and implement change in their own lives.”
In addition to these major insurers, other major corporations like Google, Nike, and Twitter also have announced that Juneteenth will be a company paid holiday.
A look at the history of Juneteenth & Emancipation Day celebrations
So as more and more companies both inside and outside the insurance industry begin to observe Juneteenth as an official holiday, Agency Checklists thought it might be helpful to share a brief history of the day and what it celebrates.
According to the Library of Congress, June 19, 2020, marks the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, “…the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.” The name is a combination of “June” and “nineteenth” as a memory of “that day of glad tidings.”
While President Lincoln signed and issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, news about the proclamation did not reach some slaves held in parts of the Confederacy until Union forces took control. The last major Confederate force, located in Galveston, Texas, did not surrender until early June 1865.
On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger, the Union commander, in charge of the Military District of Texas, under martial law, issued General Order Number 3. The Order began: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
“Juneteenth,” the June 19th holiday, has been celebrated in Texas each year since then with the state proclaiming it an official holiday on June 3, 1979. It should be noted that many states also observe Emancipation Day, albeit not always on the same day. For example, Florida has long celebrated Emancipation Day on May 20th, while Thomaston, Georgia has been celebrating Emancipation Day on May 29 since 1866. In 2007, Governor Deval Patrick signed a proclamation recognizing Juneteenth in Massachusetts. Bill H.D. 5141 entitled “An Act to make Juneteenth Independence Day a State Holiday” was filed with the Massachusetts Legislature on June 17, 2020, and seeks to make the day an official state holiday.
One of the biggest celebrations of Emancipation Day has been in Washington D.C. The city officially commemorates the end of slavery on April 16th, the day that President Lincoln signed the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862. With the signing of this Act, slavery was officially abolished in DC which saw the immediate freeing over 3,100 individuals. In an interesting footnote, Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts was instrumental in helping President Lincoln get the Act passed through Congress.
As recounted in the White House Historical Association website (founded by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in 1961), many African Americans in DC began to celebrate April 16th as a holiday. Over the years, the day grew to include speeches as well as an annual parade that passed in front of the White House and which was reviewed by various Presidents. The following is an excerpt from an article on the White House Historical Association website:
“Presidential approval helped make the parades a success and acknowledged African Americans had the right to assemble in Lafayette Square as free people. Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Andrew Johnson particularly enjoyed the tributes to Lincoln and the Republican Party as emancipators.”
The parades in D.C. lasted until 1901 and were not revived until 2002. In 2005, D.C. made April 16th an official holiday.
For those who are interested in exploring the history of Juneteenth as well as Emancipation Day further, you may find these links interesting:
- “Celebrating Juneteenth” June 19, 2015 Library of Congress Blog
- “What is Juneteenth?” by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on the PBS website
- DC Emancipation Day History on the Official District of Columbia Government website
- Emancipation Day in Washington, D.C. by Alexandra Lane of the White House Historical Association
- Emancipation Day, A Celebration in Washington, D.C. an article published in Harper’s Weekly on May 12, 1866, on the White House Historical Association website
- “Why Juneteenth Celebrates the New Birth of Freedom”, an article by Ashley Luthern published by Smithsonian Magazine on June 19, 2009
- H.D. 5141 An Act to make Juneteenth Independence Day a State Holiday in Massachusetts
- Juneteenth – Texas State Library & Archives Commission