On June 19, companies across the U.S., including the likes of Twitter, Nike, and Target, will honor Juneteenth as an annual holiday.
On that day in 1865, Gen. Gordon Granger arrived with Union soldiers in Galveston, Texas, and announced to enslaved African Americans that the Civil War had ended and they were free — more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
The holiday was largely unobserved by major American brands until this year. Weeks of Black Lives Matter protests following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, however, have prompted some companies to revise their internal policies. And for many organizations, honoring Juneteenth has been part of that series of changes.
Nike declared Juneteenth a paid annual company holiday for its employees. U.S. stores will be closed.
“At Nike, Inc., we aspire to be a leader in building a diverse, inclusive team and culture. We want to be better than society as a whole,” CEO John Donahoe said in a letter to employees. “You have told me that we have not consistently supported, recognized and celebrated our own Black teammates in a manner they deserve. This needs to change.”
In a memo to employees, CEO Jeff Bezos encouraged employees to cancel all meetings and participate in “a range of online learning opportunities” that the company will provide.
In the statement, Amazon did not specifically recognize Juneteenth as a company holiday and made no mention of whether employees at its distribution centers would receive additional pay for their work on the day.
The retail giant has recognized Juneteenth as an annual holiday for the company this year.
“At Target, we’re committed to standing with Black families, communities and team members and creating lasting change around racial justice and equity,” the company said in a statement on its website.
“Juneteenth takes on additional significance in this moment. Moving now to recognize it on an annual basis — as a day to celebrate, further educate ourselves or connect with our communities — is one more important action Target can take as a company to help the country live up to the ideal of moving forward in a new way,” Brian Cornell, chairman and CEO of Target, said.
Target stores remain open on the holiday. Hourly employees who choose to work will be paid time and a half. Target’s headquarters will be closed, and its employees will receive a paid day off.
The iconic retailer will recognize Juneteenth as an annual company holiday.
“This Friday, June 19, I ask that you take the day to honor the historic pain caused by — and lives lost to — racial inequity, and celebrate racial diversity," CEO Jill Soltau said in a statement. "This is an opportunity to continue to learn, connect with each other, and reflect on how we can move forward and achieve permanent and lasting change.”
JCPenney stores will remain open, but employees working on the holiday will “receive additional holiday pay.”
Additionally, this week, every officer at JCPenney will host “open listening conversations with their teams” on combating racism.
Twitter and Square
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and mobile payments company Square, announced via Twitter on June 9 that Juneteenth will become an annual company holiday for both corporations.
Dorsey called the holiday a day for “celebration, education, and connection” and linked to Juneteenth.com, a website that explains the history of the holiday.
General Motors announced that it will hold a moment of silence on Juneteenth for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, equal to the amount of time the prosecutor's office first reported that a Minneapolis police officer knelt on George Floyd’s neck.
“The United States, along with the rest of the world, needs to change, and we want to do everything we can to help make that happen, from donating our money and time to aiming to be the world’s most inclusive company to reminding all our employees of our goals and values every day. Friday’s event is one way to do just that,” Mark Reuss, the executive vice president of global product development, said in a statement.
The tech giant added Juneteenth as an event to its Google Calendar application and marked it as “U.S. Holiday.”
In a memo to employees, Google CEO Sundar Pichai encouraged employees not to schedule any “unnecessary meetings” on the day because “now, more than ever, it’s important for us to find moments of connection as a community.”
“I think Google is taking honest steps in a direction they feel is making a difference,” Riley Adams, a senior financial analyst at the company, told NBC. “It might start small but snowball with time. Making this a holiday might bring more distinction and solidify its importance in people’s minds.”
JPMorgan plans to close its Chase branches at 1 p.m. on June 19 in recognition of the holiday.
“While we must continue many core operations during this period, this early closure allows our branch employees — many of whom have been working on the front lines to support our customers and communities throughout the COVID-19 crisis — time to reflect, learn and participate in peaceful events in their communities,” Jamie Dimon, the company’s CEO, said in a statement.
The music streaming company is honoring Juneteenth as a paid company holiday for all U.S. employees.
“Additionally, in celebration of Juneteenth and Black Music Month, one of Spotify’s flagship playlists, “New Music Friday” will exclusively feature Black artists on Friday,” a Spotify representative said in a statement to NBC.
On June 17, Spotify announced that it plans to contribute “$10 million to organizations that are focused on the fight against racism, injustice, and inequity around the world” in a statement on its website.
While many companies who chose to honor Juneteenth received a positive response online for doing so, some believe organizations need to take action beyond declaring the day a holiday.
“Making Juneteenth a holiday is great. But if companies like Nike and the NFL are jumping on that wagon because they think a national holiday is enough to satisfy this movement to radically reshape the unjust system which those companies profit from, they are deeply mistaken,” one individual, Logan Smith, wrote on Twitter.