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Hundreds of companies observed Juneteenth before it became a federal holiday

Nation marks Juneteenth as federal holiday
Nation marks Juneteenth as federal holiday for the first time 00:19

Before Juneteenth became a federal holiday this week, hundreds of companies had already been observing the day that recognizes the liberation of slaves after the Civil War.

To name a few, Adobe, Capital One, JPMorgan Chase, Lyft, Nike, Quicken Loans, Spotify, Target and Uber all began observing Juneteenth last year. Joining the list this year are Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Conde Nast, National Grid and Yelp.

All told, more than 800 companies now observe Juneteenth, according to a list from Hella Creative, a California-based volunteer group that pushes for widespread recognition of Juneteenth.

Earlier this week, Congress introduced a bill in both chambers that would designate Juneteenth as a federal holiday. It passed the House on Wednesday, the Senate on Tuesday and was signed it into law by President Joe Biden on Thursday. 

Because the new law took effect immediately, some companies were left scrambling to adjust their calendars to give workers the day off Friday, a day after the bill was signed. Bank of America, UBS Group and The New York Times are offering U.S. employees a floating day off, Bloomberg reported.

Tool maker Stanley Black & Decker said it plans to join the list of Juneteenth observers starting next year.  

"Juneteenth is a symbolic date for racial equity for Black Americans," Black & Decker CEO Jim Loree said in a statement Thursday. "Naming Juneteenth as a company holiday is part of our continued commitment to building a foundation of diversity and inclusion."

However, many private-sector and government employees will still go to work on Friday, including baristas at Starbucks and sales associates at Best Buy.

The U.S. Postal Service said on Thursday it was "fully supportive" of the new Juneteenth law, but because of the timing of the law's passing, "it is not possible to cease the operations of the Postal Service to accommodate an observance over the next 24-48 hours."

More than 45 states already mark the day as a paid holiday for government workers, with the exception of Hawaii, North Dakota and South Dakota. 

Juneteenth is now the 11th federal holiday, the first federal holiday created in the nearly 40 years since Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday became federally recognized in 1983. Mr. Biden called the new holiday "a day in which we remember the moral stain, the terrible toll that slavery took on the country, and continues to take."

June 19, 1865, was the day U.S. Army Major General Gordon Granger traveled to Galveston, Texas, to announce the Civil War was over and that slavery had ended. That day, many enslaved African Americans were unaware that Congress had passed the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, six months earlier. Abraham Lincoln had formally ended slavery in 1863 when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. 

Juneteenth: The story behind the 155-year-old holiday that commemorates the end of slavery 06:20

More than a century later, state governments began commemorating Juneteenth as a holiday. Texas was the first to do so in 1980. 

Today, many African Americans celebrate Juneteenth with family celebrations. In most cases, extended family members gather for barbecue dinners and eat hamburgers and hot dogs, much like celebrations for the Fourth of July.

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