Juneteenth and Pride Month

We Are All Included

Written by Adrienne D. Berry, ACP

June 2022

In June, diversity, equity, and inclusion take a step to the front with the celebrations of Juneteenth and Pride Month! These events seem to unofficially set the stage for showcasing the differences in everyone while highlighting what makes us all the same.

Juneteenth is one of the oldest recognized events in American history. When slavery was abolished in 1863, word did not reach everyone at the same time.  In fact, it took until June of 1865 for slaves in Texas to get word that Lincoln had released the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves.

Pride Month is also a recognized event in American history. Its origin is not one people look to as a good moment.  It is one that has roots in an event that turned into a reaction of human rights, an observance that all people should be treated equally regardless of their sexual orientation, color, creed, or nationality.

History of Juneteenth

It was on June 19th, 1865 that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official on January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.

One of General Granger’s first orders of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3 which began most significantly with:

“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 celebration of June 19th was coined “Juneteenth” and grew with more participation from descendants. The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying, and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date.

Through the years, the celebration of Juneteenth became obscured with history, until a state legislator in Texas brought it back to the forefront in 1980. Slowly and through the years, more states began to recognize Juneteenth. Today, Juneteenth is celebrated across the nation in most states, through parades, marches, festivals, and other types of events paying homage to the day when the last of the slaves recognized their freedom.[1]

From the emancipation of the slaves to the recognition and acceptance of gays, lesbians, transgender people, bisexuals, and others, June is also recognized as Pride month. Like Juneteenth, an event happened in June that forever changed the way homosexuals were treated in society.

History of Pride Month

On a hot summer’s night in New York on June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village, which resulted in bar patrons, staff, and neighborhood residents rioting onto Christopher Street outside. Among the many leaders of the riots was a black, trans, bisexual woman, Marsha P. Johnson, leading the movement to continue over six days with protests and clashes. The message was clear – protestors demanded the establishment of places where LGBT+ people could go and be open about their sexual orientation without fear of arrest.

Pride Month is largely credited as being started by bisexual activist Brenda Howard. Known as ‘The Mother of Pride,’ Brenda organized Gay Pride Week and the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade a year after the Stonewall Riots. This eventually morphed into what we now know as the New York City Pride March and was the catalyst for the formation of similar parades and marches across the world.

Bill Clinton was the first U.S. President to officially recognize Pride Month in 1999 and 2000. Then, from 2009 to 2016, Barack Obama declared June LGBT Pride Month.[2]

June is the perfect month to highlight diversity, equity, and inclusiveness through the recognition and celebration of these two major events.  An event that changed the trajectory for slaves for years to come; and an event that changed the treatment of a group of people who celebrated being different but still the same.

This month highlights the importance of DEI in our culture, in the workplace, in society, and in everyday life.  Each person should be treated as an equal, regardless of who they are, the color of their skin, their beliefs, their preferences, and/or their origins.

[1] https://juneteenth.com/history/

[2] https://nationaltoday.com/pride-month/#history