In the midst of a national reckoning about systemic racism and the continued killing of Black and brown men and women at the hands of police, the country paused to celebrate Juneteenth on Friday (June 19). The holiday recalls the end of slavery in the U.S., marking the day (June 19, 1865) when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and that enslaved people were free; the news came two-and-a-half years after Pres. Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863.
Though the holiday is 155-years-old and has been celebrated for more than a century by African-Americans, the focus on racial injustice spurred by the protests in every state over the killing of George Floyd has put a spotlight on the celebration, with a number of prominent artists, most notably Pharrell Williams, pushing to make it an official national holiday.
Williams, in fact spent much of Thursday (June 18) posting pleas to the nation’s governors to make Juneteenth a paid holiday for state employees and thanking those public officials who’ve heeded the call; news also emerged on Friday that Pharrell and black-ish creator Kenya Barris are in talks to develop a Netflix musical inspired by Juneteenth.
A wide variety of artists joined Williams in honoring the holiday, including Lionel Richie, Big Boi, Fantasia, Ryan Seacrest, Taylor Swift, the estates of Michael Jackson and Jimi Hendrix, as well as Bette Midler, Carole King, Bon Iver and Paramore’s Hayley Williams.
Check out their tweets below.