At DEV, we recognize that our community of technologists is a global one. You might not be intimately familiar with many of the holidays and important events we recognize as a company, but what Juneteenth stands for is relevant to people in every country, so we wanted to share some context for this important annual tradition and its origins. Events that recognize Black culture and history reinforce the humanity we all seek to serve with technology.
We hope this post is useful for those of you outside the U.S. — and for the many U.S. citizens who have more to learn about Juneteenth!
On this day in 1865, Union civil war soldiers (led by Major General Gordon Granger) arrived in Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and previously enslaved Black people in the United States were declared free.
155 years later, we in the U.S. call this day Juneteenth. It’s a chance for Americans to celebrate an important milestone towards the freedom of all people. It’s also a chance for non-Black Americans to amplify Black joy while reflecting on our country’s history. In short, Juneteenth is the Black Independence Day.
Like an increasing number of companies in the United States, DEV has declared Juneteenth an official holiday for our team. We feel it’s important to give our team the chance to celebrate this day, which was a historical win not just for Black people, but for our country’s progress towards equality and justice. We still have a long way to go towards a truly equal society, but we cannot continue the long term fight without taking time to celebrate victories and reflect on the change that’s still needed.
One of the orders Major General Granger delivered 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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer."
The first Juneteenth celebration took place in Galveston that year (called “Jubilee Day” initially). It began as a chance to share information about the new rights of those previously enslaved, including the right to vote.
In Austin, Texas, Juneteenth was first celebrated in 1867. The same year, 10 acres of land were purchased that year by a collective of local Black leaders for the celebration in Houston (now known as Emancipation Park). The holiday was officially named Juneteenth in the 1890s and became more widely recognized throughout Texas. Soon, the event spread throughout the United States.
Today, Juneteenth is celebrated with local gatherings which can include cookouts/shared meals, readings of the Emancipation Proclamation and works by Black leaders, singing, historical reenactments, and street fairs.
Family and community is a crucial aspect of Juneteenth and the roots of this can be seen in the first celebration. Many previously enslaved Black people responded to the news of their freedom by reuniting with loved ones in nearby states that they were previously unable to see due to their subjugation. Today, Black Americans often gather with their families and communities to recount collective history — and celebrate!
Again, celebration is the bedrock of Juneteenth. This milestone for Black people is a milestone for all of us. Participate in local celebrations that are shared with you.
Non-Black individuals can also take a cue from that very first Juneteenth in 1865 in Galveston Texas, where Black people shared information about their new voting rights. We can all spend some time today educating ourselves on the progress we still need to make for the Black community.
Black joy should be the spotlight of Juneteenth, but we should also use it as a chance to reflect.
The declaration of freedom for previously enslaved people in Texas happened over two years after Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which changed the legal status under federal law of more than 3.5 million enslaved Black people. Even after Juneteenth was a well-established annual event, systemic racism in the United States worked to suppress the holiday itself. These facts alone outline why the topic of racism is so important in the U.S.: we might have passed declarations and laws to make slavery illegal, but racism persists. Here are some resources to help do your part as a non-Black person. Today and every day.
DEV is a place for programmers and technologists to gather, discuss technology, learn, teach, and get inspired. We cannot do any of these things well - or safely - under a system that doesn’t empower all people. The contributions to culture and technology by the Black community cannot be overstated and Juneteenth celebrates a milestone towards their freedom.
If tech is about building the future, it's our collective responsibility as a platform to do so in a way that enables Black joy — and is actively anti-racist. Today, we're doing that by celebrating Juneteenth.