Over the last two weeks, music companies have been rallying around the movement for racial justice in the wake of widespread protests following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other black Americans who have died at the hands of police. Now, many of these companies are continuing that commitment by recognizing Juneteenth — a holiday celebrated annually on June 19 to commemorate the end of slavery in the U.S. — as a company holiday.
At Warner Music Group — which announced internally last week that all employees will have a full day’s paid leave each year to commemorate the date, Billboard has learned — Juneteenth is not being treated as a day off but rather “an important time for all of us to learn, reflect, and connect as we continue to battle systemic racism,” according to language from the memo.
“While this was a massive step toward liberation, more than 150 years later, people are still fighting for true freedom and equality in this country,” the memo continues. “We’ve heard loud and clear that our teams across the U.S. would like to take the time to mark this day, which is also known as Freedom Day.”
Sony Music informed its employees on Sunday the company would be observing the holiday “with a day away from meetings and calls to acknowledge the importance of this historic day,” according to a staff memo obtained by Billboard. The company promised “more detailed information about our Juneteenth commemoration leading up to Friday,” noting, “We look forward to coming together in progress and will provide.”
Other companies recognizing Juneteenth include BMG, ASCAP and Spotify, which sent the following statement to Billboard through a company representative: “Juneteenth will be a paid company holiday for all U.S. Spotify employees to support the Black community and give this day the recognition it deserves. Additionally, in celebration of Juneteenth and Black Music Month, one of Spotify’s flagship playlists, ‘New Music Friday’ will exclusively feature black artists on Friday, June 19th.”
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger landed in Texas to deliver news that the Civil War had ended and all enslaved people in Texas were now free. The date came two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which changed the legal status of enslaved African Americans in most of the Confederacy to free people. Though it has never been recognized as a national holiday, Juneteenth has long held significance for the black community, with celebrations dating all the way back to 1866.