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The DEV Team

Celebrating Juneteenth

ben profile image Ben Halpern ・4 min read

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.

The beginning of Juneteenth

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.

How is Juneteenth celebrated today?

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!

“How can I commemorate Juneteenth as a non-Black person?”

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.

"I thought DEV was a tech platform. What does this have to do with tech?"

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.

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Ben Halpern

@ben

A Canadian software developer who thinks he’s funny. He/Him.

The DEV Team

The team behind this very platform. 😄

Discussion

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My preferred way to celebrate Juneteenth is to read some of the narratives of former slaves. The US government collected thousands of them. Enslaved people were people, and the best way to understand their humanity is to read their life stories in their own words.

In this one, a former slave recounts being informed of his freedom. It's also a great example of the immediate success of lies behind the former Confederacy's Lost Cause myth.
Lots of old people lake me say dat dey was happy in slavery, and dat dey had de worst tribulations after freedom, but I knows dey didn't have no white master and overseer lak we all had on our place. Dey both dead now I reckon, and dey no use talking 'bout de dead, but I know I been gone long ago iffen dat white man Saunder didn't lose his hold on me. It was de fourth day of June in 1865 I begins to live, and gwine take de picture of dat old man in de big black hat and long whiskers, setting on de gallery and talking kind to us, clean into my grave wid me. No, bess God, I ain't never seen no more black boys bleeding all up and down de back under a cat o' nine tails, and I never go by no cabin and hear no poor nigger groaning, all wrapped up in a lardy sheet no more! I hear my chillun read about General Lee, and I know he was a good man. I didn't know nothing about him den, but I know now he wasn't fighting for dat kind of white folks. Maybe dey dat kind sill yet, but dey don't show it up no more, and I got lots of white friends too. All my chillun and grandchillun been to school, and dey git along good, and I know we living in a better world, what dey ain't nobody "cussing fire to my black heart!" I sho' thank de good Lawd I got to see it.

 

It is so amazing to live to see WHITE people talking about this and taking the time to discuss we need changes in our community.

Thank you for this post! 🤖💜

 

Thanks for being such a positive influence on the community yourself Alejandra!

 

Actually I didn't know about Juneteenth but I'm really happy and proud of being part of a community that shares with me the idea that everyone, no matter her race, gender, sexual orientation or whatever, should have the same opportunities.

Initiatives like this are something really valuable.

 

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.

💯

 

You might not be intimately familiar with many of the holidays and important events we recognize as a company

Hell I'm not intimately familiar with most holidays recognized in my own company/country, the extent of my knowledge is that they're free days off that are mostly related to either a war, a revolution, or baby Jesus.