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Honoring Juneteenth at Paysafe: reflecting on freedom and advocating for sustainable change

While Paysafe’s U.S. employees observe Juneteenth in a company holiday that honors it, we take time to delve into the historical significance and modern celebrations of Juneteenth, featuring insights from Dr. Felicia Bevel, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of History University of North Florida.

While Paysafe’s U.S. employees observe Juneteenth in a company holiday that honors it, we take time to delve into the historical significance and modern celebrations of Juneteenth, featuring insights from Dr. Felicia Bevel, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of History University of North Florida. Read more about the origins of Juneteenth, its role in the process of emancipation, and how companies and individuals can honor and support Black communities today.

Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19th, commemorates a pivotal moment in American history—the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, in 1865. To gain a deeper understanding of this important day, we turn to the expertise of Dr. Felicia Bevel, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of History University of North Florida, and reflect on how companies can support the Black communities

The historical context of Juneteenth

Juneteenth emerged within the larger context of Reconstruction, a period marked by intense debates about the color line and the meaning of citizenship and labor. This celebration is deeply rooted in the process of emancipation, during which African Americans used public spaces to assert their versions of the past and future. By examining Juneteenth, we gain a valuable lens for understanding the uneven and complex transition from slavery to freedom.

The end of chattel slavery, a social and economic institution based on the concept of inheritable property that linked blackness with forced labor, was a transnational project of white supremacy. This system commodified Black people as products and producers, with Black women also seen as reproducers. The separation of families was a common practice.

Many consider emancipation as a single moment rather than a series of steps taken by both the federal government and enslaved African Americans. Popular narratives often credit President Abraham Lincoln as the sole figure of emancipation, but this overlooks the contributions of other historical actors.

>In 1863, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, a wartime act meant to preserve the Union rather than fully end slavery. It only liberated enslaved persons within states that had rebelled against the United States. Despite its limited scope, this was a crucial step in the process of liberation.

Passed by Congress in 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States, intending to free all enslaved persons. However, scholars argue that its language opened the door for other forms of unfreedom to continue.

Juneteenth is considered one of the last official steps in the process of emancipation, marking the day when the last known enslaved persons learned of their freedom. This day is significant not only for its historical context but also for how African Americans have celebrated it over time.

Celebrating Juneteenth

Juneteenth celebrations began immediately after 1865, with celebrants dressing in their Sunday best and participating in rodeos, baseball games, barbecue and fried fish dinners, dancing, and church programs. White clothing stores often advertised in Black newspapers in the weeks before celebrations. Over time, Juneteenth expanded beyond Texas and became part of a larger context of emancipation celebrations that had started in the early nineteenth century but began to decline during World War II.

These celebrations were opportunities for African Americans to occupy public spaces and project a Black-centered narrative of national belonging and citizenship. They aimed to educate, congregate, and agitate, countering white supremacist narratives by defining and revising a collective history of Black people and their contributions to the country.

The importance of Juneteenth

Juneteenth celebrations help us understand the forms that resistance can take in the present, specifically how space can be used to acknowledge difficult histories of racial violence that continue to inflict wounds today. They also help us understand the relationship between policy and practice—how Black communities represent themselves in opposition to discriminatory practices and policies.

Actionable Steps to Support Black Communities

In the spirit of Juneteenth, which calls for agitation, individuals can participate by supporting local initiatives for Black communities. Here are some actionable steps:

  • Observe: Paysafe and many other companies already recognize Juneteenth as a company holiday, honoring its profound historical significance.
  • Attend meetings and events: Participate in meetings and events sponsored by local organizations dedicated to supporting Black communities.
  • Support local Black businesses: make a conscious effort to patronize Black-owned businesses, thereby supporting the economic empowerment of Black communities.
  • Educate yourself and others: Take the time to learn about Black history and share this knowledge with others to foster a more inclusive and informed community.

By understanding and celebrating Juneteenth, we honor the resilience and contributions of African Americans and continue the journey towards equality and justice.