Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom

Thoughts from JAMS’ president on the importance of honoring this meaningful day

Kimberly Taylor, Esq.
Kimberly Taylor, Esq.
JAMS President

Published June 17, 2022

The American Civil War began in April 1861 and officially ended on April 9, 1865, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered in Appomattox, Virginia. Long before the war’s end, on September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that on January 1, 1863, all enslaved people in the Confederate states “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” Sadly, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865—more than two years later—that the news reached enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas. Juneteenth (short for June nineteenth) marks that historic day. Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021, and this year it will be observed on Monday, June 20. 

JAMS is pleased to honor this important day by hosting a presentation for our associates and neutrals that includes an overview of the history of Juneteenth and focuses on how freedom denied and delayed is part of the Black experience, as well as how commemorating this holiday can advance justice. Topics to be discussed include what freedom means now in the workplace; how freedom impacts the legal profession; opportunities for diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I); and how to promote justice and freedom today. Paula Edgar, CEO of PGE Consulting Group, will deliver a virtual talk on June 20 during an event co-sponsored by the JAMS employee resource group (ERG) Black@JAMS and the JAMS Institute, the in-house training arm at JAMS.

At JAMS, we find great significance in this holiday. On this day of remembrance and reflection, we want to reaffirm our commitment to social and racial justice. We celebrate Juneteenth as well as Black History Month to strengthen our allyship and communicate that DE&I is important and is among our top business priorities. Participating in these celebrations signifies that our commitment is not merely performative, but embedded in the fabric of our company. We will continue to support our ERGs, offer regular educational opportunities on DE&I, ensure that our managers and associates contribute to a work environment that advances these values, and work to increase the selection of diverse neutrals.

Although slavery was abolished in the United States by the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, 157 years later the Black community continues to face issues of systemic racism, discrimination and injustice. But there is reason for optimism. The Black community is resilient and continues to overcome adversity. Juneteenth is a joyful and reflective occasion and provides an opportunity for education, civic engagement and reaffirmation of our commitment to justice and fairness.

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