Juneteenth is a combination of two words – June and Nineteenth, or June 19th, which marks the day in 1865 when slavery truly ended in the United States.
Although President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation abolished slavery in slave states almost three years earlier, enforcement of that proclamation relied on the presence of Union troops in those areas. Texas, being the furthest state from the Union army’s impact, made it difficult to enforce the law. It was the arrival of Union troops in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, that effectively ended slavery in southern states.
In 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law the national observance of Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Holiday recognition by the U.S. government is rare, making Juneteenth only the 11th date acknowledged in history. The last holiday recognized was Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.
Today, people across the U.S. commemorate Black freedom with Juneteenth celebrations, education, and reflection. For attorneys, who put great stock in the power of words, Juneteenth is an important reminder that words must be supported by action.
Our motto at SWMW Law is “Because People Matter,” and we are committed to doing all we can to live up to this statement every day. For the past three years, SWMW Law has closed its office in observance of Juneteenth so our attorneys and staff can devote time to learning, reflection, and related community events. To further bolster our words with action, the firm has additionally made $2,500 donations to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Arch City Defenders, and The Black Repertory Company – because not only do people matter, Black Lives Matter.
Additionally, our leadership team is currently working together to develop a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee to ensure our policies, practices and firm culture support the needs of all our colleagues, including those in the Black community.
We ask that you join us on Juneteenth to reflect upon the legacy of slavery in our country and all the work that remains to be done. As the past 158 years have shown, meaningful change doesn’t happen when only a committed few are involved. We must all do our part.