Resilience. Celebration. History.
Juneteenth marks the official emancipation of Black people from the cruelties and injustices of slavery. It’s so named because, on June 19, 1865, the last of the enslaved were informed of their freedom. And now, following a decades-long campaign led by Opal Lee– the Grandmother of Juneteenth – and others, it’s a federal holiday.
In honor of the day, we asked Black women entrepreneurs to tell us what Juneteenth means to them, and received numerous stirring responses. Below, we share their thoughtful words that offer critical reminders of our dark past and troubled present – as well as hope for the future.
(Note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and style.)
Dr. Jasmine Reed, founder of Ubuntu Psychological Services
“Juneteenth is an opportunity to reflect on the ways in which Black Americans have been deprived in the past – and continue to face such experiences. It’s a day that allows us to celebrate the strength of African-Americans and their resilience. It serves as a reminder of the brutal and oppressive ways in which the government and those who benefited from slavery deprived Black people of their freedom. The celebratory aspect of Juneteenth, for me, is that despite the injustice and lack of humanitarian treatment, Black Americans persist in their love, worship, conquest and triumph, even when faced with opposition.”
Shondra M. Quarles, founder of Eye Heart Literacy
“This holiday reminds me to cherish the freedoms that many of our ancestors died for. I founded Eye Heart Literacy to create diverse and inclusive books for kids. All children deserve to see Black and Brown characters in books, because representation matters. I also promote literacy because it was once against the law for Black people to read and write. Their desire to read put many of our ancestors in danger. I now encourage kids to read books and write their own stories. We have the freedom to do so because our ancestors kept the faith, regardless of the repercussions. I want kids to remember that we are living our ancestors’ dreams, and that there is power in literacy.”
Tenyse Williams, founder of Verified Consulting
“Juneteenth means paying homage to our ancestors who endured unimaginable hardships – as well as the unwavering spirit of power and survival that carried them forward. Acknowledge Black joy by continuing our ancestors’ celebrations – by keeping our African heritage alive. They kept their joy through the most horrific conditions, and this day serves as a reminder of the importance of acknowledging our past and recommitting to the ongoing pursuit of equality, and justice. Juneteenth is an important day for me as a Black woman in business, as it inspires me to continue the legacy of my ancestors despite any challenges I may face. Their strength and resilience serve as a constant reminder to keep pushing forward.”
Ashleigh Dixon, founder of PlanlyCo
“Juneteenth serves as a reminder that, as a Black woman born and raised in a small Kansas town now pursuing my entrepreneurial dreams in bustling New York City, I am fortunate to live the free, meaningful life my ancestors prayed for before June 19, 1865. I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to remain resilient and build something of my own. It’s also a reminder that there’s still a lot to be done to eliminate racism. My hope is two-fold: That we, as a country, use commemorative days like Juneteenth to come together and truly see one another, and that I can inspire other young women and girls who look like me to live freely.”
Dr. Erkeda DeRouen, founder of Erkeda DeRouen Enterprise
“Juneteenth serves as a celebration of the day when the last individuals who were enslaved received word of their freedom. As a Black female physician whose ancestors were among the enslaved, Juneteenth is a symbol of power, perseverance and potential. Those who have come before us worked tirelessly so that their descendents would have more opportunities than they had from the beginning of slavery through Jim Crow to the Civil Rights Era. I am a multifaceted, triple-board-certified physician, author and consultant because my forefathers worked hard in order for those like me to thrive. I have no choice but to acknowledge the radiating pride of Juneteenth as a symbol of the obstacles that those heroes overcame in order for future generations to thrive. Black girls have always been magic.”
Annette J Morris, founder of Goal Getter
“Juneteenth, to me, means freedom to be! Although it still feels, in many instances, as though we’re still fighting for our freedom and equality, we acknowledge Juneteenth as the day slavery was abolished and our ancestors were liberated from the bonds of it. Juneteenth is a reminder of the resilience and determination of African-Americans in the face of oppression and adversity. It gives me courage as a Black woman to keep pushing, in order to achieve the success and freedom I desire for my family and generations to come.”