Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

Pick a SPECIFIC date to explore

Friday, June 19—Juneteenth

Jun 19: Thousands of Americans commemorate Juneteenth, a holiday most white Americans did not know existed before this year.*

From the cutting room floor...

I just got an email from Walgreens: “This Juneteenth, we share our commitment to racial equality.” In the email, they list all that they are doing for America’s Black communities. Pepsi’s move two days ago seemed like legitimate contrition. This seems like more goddamn virtue signaling from one of the worst violators in the country. Walgreens is owned by the Walton family, which also owns Walmart. Their companies pay their employees as little as possible, according to Human Rights Watch. They keep their workers just below full-time so that they don’t have to pay benefits, pushing working employees onto state welfare programs. They routinely deny breaks and overtime pay. They’ve even been accused of violating child-labor laws.[1] Audits have shown that Black and Latino workers make around 75% of their white peers in Walton-owned companies, a gap of up to $7,500 a year. Black and Latino workers are more likely to be involuntarily employed part-time and face significantly more instability in work scheduling.[2]

Walgreens is not the only company that is virtue signaling for Juneteenth. Nike, Twitter, and the NFL have said they will give their employees the day off on June 19 from now on. Again, it’s lovely, but as Jamelle Bouie put it, “paid holidays, while nice, are a grossly inadequate response to calls for justice and equality.”[3]

“Happy Juneteenth,” like those black squares on social media, is everywhere. None of the umpteen corporations that jump on this bandwagon to keep profits going explain what it means, of course. Juneteenth was not Emancipation Day (January 1, 1863), nor the formal end to the Civil War (April 9, 1865). It was the moment when the Union General, Gordon Granger, delivered the news of the Emancipation Proclamation to a group of enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, a full seventeen days after the last Confederate General, Edmund Kirby Smith, surrendered in Galveston.

On the one hand, it is a great day to celebrate emancipation because it marks a moment of awareness, of knowledge—a moment when enslaved people knew that they were no longer enslaved. There were similar holidays in Russia for when serfs learned that they were free. On the other hand, the day is still fundamentally about a moment when freedom was bestowed upon a population. It still rings of benevolent white folks granting something. Would it be possible to find a date that honors the struggle, agency, and persistence of African American enslaved people as they survived the trials and tribulations of centuries of slavery?

And why the delay? Why has it taken a century-and-a-half to have Walgreens, Nike, and all the rest recognize it?

The answer is that there were always multiple Civil Wars. One was over the political and economic institution of slavery in the United States in the nineteenth century. Lincoln’s Union outlasted the Confederacy in 1865. But the cessation of armed conflict did nothing to settle what they used to call the “Negro Question”—what to make of Africans forced for hundreds of years to live, work, and die in a land they helped create but could not profit from. In that Civil War, which lasted beyond Appomattox, men and women of African descent remained inferior, convicts in the making, relegated to minstrel status as always entertaining, always deferential—or, in today’s Fox News lingo, always able to “shut up and dribble.”[4] Celebrating the power of Black persistence in the face of blanketing inferiorization for another century and more after the end of legalized, Christianized enslavement is a true victory, one that corporations have only now begun to recognize because dollars force them to.


[1] Steven Greenhouse, “In-House Audit Says Wal-Mart Violated Labor Laws,” The New York Times, January 13, 2004, sec. U.S.,

[2] Catherine Ruetschlin and Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, “The Retail Race Divide” (, June 2, 2015),

[3] Jamelle Bouie, “Opinion | Why Juneteenth Matters,” The New York Times, June 18, 2020, sec. Opinion,

[4] Anne Twitty, “Ole Miss’s Monument to White Supremacy,” The Atlantic, June 19, 2020,

Read more


@joyoladokun, 2020-6-4 #fyp, TikTok,

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, “Kentucky Officer Brett Hankison to Be Fired from Louisville Police for Breonna Taylor Shooting,” Bloomberg Quicktake, June 19, 2020.

“Man killed in shootout with deputies is half-brother of Robert Fuller, found hanged in Palmdale,” KTLA 5 News, June 18, 2020.

Reckon, “What is Juneteenth?”, July 20, 2018.

Karlos K. Hill, “Why all Americans should honor Juneteenth,” Vox, June 19, 2020.

Beyoncé. Beyoncé – BLACK PARADE (Official Audio), 2020.

*If the pdf thumbnails are not appearing, please reload the page.

Pepsico CEO. “PepsiCo’s Racial Equality Journey.” PepsiCo, Inc. Official Website, June 16, 2020.
Ruetschlin, Catherine, and Dedrick Asante-Muhammad. “The Retail Race Divide.”, June 2, 2015.
Mason, Mark. “I Can’t Breathe.” Citi Group Blog, May 29, 2020. [For a sense of America right now, click on the link and read the hundreds of comments.]
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Additional Links

* Timeline summaries at the top of the page come from a variety of sources:, including The American Journal of Managed Care COVID-19 Timeline (, the Just Security Group at the NYU School of Law (, the “10 Things,” daily entries from The Week (, as well as a variety of newspapers and television programs.