Twitter and Square have designated Juneteenth, which celebrates the end of slavery in America, as a company holiday — the latest conciliatory overture by a major corporation since the widespread protests over police brutality and the death of George Floyd.
The initiative was announced on social media by Jack Dorsey, the chief executive and a founder of Twitter and Square, a mobile payment company. The announcement came on the same day as the funeral for Floyd, the black man who was killed last month when a Minneapolis police officer put his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Businesses large and small, from the National Football League to independent shops, have re-examined their policies and social responsibility to combat systemic racism in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
The holiday got its name by combining the words June and nineteenth. On 19 June 1865, Union soldiers landing in Galveston, Texas, told the slaves there that they were free and that the Civil War had ended — more than two years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
“Both Twitter and Square are making #Juneteenth (June 19th) a company holiday in the US, forevermore,” Mr Dorsey wrote on Twitter. “A day for celebration, education, and connection.”
Forty-seven states recognise Juneteenth as a state holiday, but efforts to make it a national holiday have stalled in Congress. For many African Americans, it is considered an independence day.
Noliwe Rooks, an author and professor at Cornell University whose work explores race and gender, said in an email on Tuesday that this year’s observance had added meaning.
“As a holiday, Juneteenth perfectly encapsulates this moment which is almost equal parts anger over the reminders of how little regard there has generally been for Black life, health and freedom, and the totally unexpected reality that fundamental change has come,” Ms Rooks said. “Like a shock, change has come.”
Vox Media also made Juneteenth a company holiday, a Wall Street Journal reporter said on Tuesday.
Twitter has come under intense scrutiny over its posting guidelines and drew the ire of Donald Trump in late May when it appended a note to one of his tweets threatening to have some protesters shot.
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