On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth a recognized federal holiday (Juneteenth National Independence Day Act). I put together this list of impactful Juneteenth quotes to honor the day and the people whose struggles paved the way to freedom for future generations.

Juneteenth quotes from political leaders & activists

Here are some Juneteenth quotes from activists and political leaders:

“Throughout history, Juneteenth has been known by many names: Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Liberation Day, Emancipation Day and, today, a national holiday.”

Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States

“If the cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. Because the goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned tho’ we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights leader 

I have always hated slavery, I think as much as any Abolitionist.

Abraham Lincoln, Former U.S. President

“Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory or an acceptance of the way things are. It’s a celebration of progress. It’s an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible—and there is still so much work to do.”  

Barack Obama, Former U.S. President

I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery.

George Washington, 1st President of the United States

“What I love about #Juneteenth is that even in that extended wait, we still find something to celebrate. Even though the story has never been tidy, and Black folks have had to march and fight for every inch of our freedom, our story is nonetheless one of progress.”

Michelle Obama, Former First Lady of the U.S.

 “Anytime anyone is enslaved, or in any way deprived of his liberty, if that person is a human being, as far as I am concerned he is justified to resort to whatever methods necessary to bring about his liberty again.”

Malcolm X, renowned human rights activist 

“I had reasoned this out in my mind; there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty, or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other; for no man should take me alive; I should fight for my liberty as long as my strength lasted, and when the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me.”

Harriet Tubman, abolitionist and humanitarian

“Hold those things that tell your history and protect them. During slavery, who was able to read or write or keep anything? The ability to have somebody to tell your story to is so important. It says: ‘I was here. I may be sold tomorrow. But you know I was here.”

Maya Angelou, author and activist 

“Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation.”

Coretta Scott King, human rights activist and leader 

“Every year we must remind successive generations that this event triggered a series of events that one by one defines the challenges and responsibilities of successive generations. That’s why we need this holiday.”

Al Edwards, Texas Democratic Representative

“My people have a country of their own to go to if they choose… Africa… but, this America belongs to them just as much as it does to any of the white race… in some ways even more so, because they gave the sweat of their brow and their blood in slavery so that many parts of America could become prosperous and recognized in the world. ”

Josephine Baker, entertainer and activist 

Juneteenth quotes from athletes & entertainers

“There’s no other race, to me, that has such a tough history for hundreds and hundreds of years, and only the strong survive, so we were the strongest and the most mentally tough, and I’m really proud to wear this color every single day of my life.”

Serena Williams, tennis professional

“No violence will create peace…To effect change we must show love in the face of hate and peace in the face of violence.”

Beyonce, singer

“People say I talk so slow today. That’s no surprise. I calculated I’ve taken 29,000 punches. But I earned $57 million and I saved half of it. So I took a few hard knocks. Do you know how many black men are killed every year by guns and knives without a penny to their names? I may talk slow, but my mind is OK.”

Muhammed Ali, professional boxer

“None but ourselves can free our minds.”

Bob Marley, Reggae artist

“We all require and want respect, man or woman, Black or white. It’s our basic human right.”

Aretha Franklin, musician

Juneteenth quotes from employers

These Juneteenth quotes are from diversity leaders and employers:

Amazon

“While rejoicing in progress, we must continue to educate ourselves about our history to help guide our future. We honor those who fought, endured, and continue to persevere in the fight for equality. We celebrate with the awareness that advocacy is still necessary in America’s pursuit of equality and, ultimately, equity.”

Dr. Tiffany Bowden, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Program Manager – Community Engagement — Amazon

Dell

“As a native Texan, I’ve celebrated #Juneteenth my whole life. It’s important for our Dell Technologies family to reflect on the progress we’ve made and to continue to expand access & opportunity. I’m excited to see this day being officially recognized at the federal level. Happy Juneteenth!”

Vanice Hayes, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer — Dell Technologies

Endeavor

“Silence was not an option last year, nor was ignoring the longstanding impact of partial freedom on Black people across the country. The willingness and ability to navigate conversations about race and racism are essential to leadership. We cannot ignore these conversations because they are too hard; and when we do come together, we have to hold space for a range of emotions. And if we are making a commitment to address systemic racism and to becoming anti-racist, we have to first be open to addressing the bias within our own organizations.

Our employees know the difference between performative allyship and authentic leadership. Bringing Juneteenth to the Endeavor team has elicited a sense of satisfaction and growth. I do this work for a living, and I never stop learning.”

Alicin Reidy Williamson, Chief Inclusion Officer — Endeavor

Microsoft

“Our approach is not to offer a vacation day; but instead use this day to create time and space for employees to better understand critical topics related to race, ethnicity and racial injustice. Recognizing this day with intention allows us to stay connected to the many challenges unresolved, violence unaddressed, and inequities unchanged for the Black and African American community worldwide.”

Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, Chief Diversity Officer — Microsoft

Walgreens

“Juneteenth, which is now a federal holiday, is a time to celebrate African Americans “making a way out of no way.” It’s a time to remember the remarkable things we’ve accomplished since 1865, despite every obstacle thrown our way.”

Carlos Cubia, Senior VP, Global Chief Diversity Officer — Walgreens Boots Alliance

Sysco

What’s the big deal with Juneteenth being recognized as a national holiday?! Well…..In order for me to be born, I needed:
2 parents
4 grandparents
8 great-grandparents
16 second great-grandparents
32 third great-grandparents
64 fourth great-grandparents
128 fifth great-grandparents
256 sixth great-grandparents
512 seventh great-grandparents
1,024 eight great-grandparents
2,048 ninth great-grandparents

For me to be here today from 12 previous generations, I needed a total of 4,094 ancestors over the last 400 years.

Think for a moment – How many struggles? How many battles? How many difficulties? How much sadness? How much happiness? How many love stories? How many expressions of hope for the future? – did my ancestors have to undergo for me to exist in the present moment.

May Juneteenth not only be a day of celebration, but a day to commemorate those that were here before me and did not give up.
#inspiration#community#hope#thankful#life#family#future#love

Darnell K. Greene, Director of Supplier Diversity — Sysco

TIAA

“As someone who grew up in Texas, #Juneteenth is a holiday that’s especially meaningful to me. The story was not widely known for a long time, but, thankfully, its significance in our march toward freedom has been increasingly recognized in recent years. At TIAA, we’re committed to raising awareness around inequality and inequity, and working together to eradicate racism in our society. #BeTheChange”

Thasunda Brown Duckett, President & CEO — TIAA

Zillow

“As part of our ongoing commitment to racial equality, Zillow observes Juneteenth as a paid holiday, and encourages employees to take the day for reflection, volunteerism, education, and activism to commemorate the end of slavery in the U.S.”

Kristina Adamski, Vice President, Corporate Relations — Zillow

Juneteenth Quotes [the history]

“They turned them loose on the nineteenth of June, and so that’s how we know to celebrate that day.”

Laura Smalley, a slave on a plantation in Bellville, Texas

“Early on, the spelling of the holiday was not yet fixed, often appearing as “June ’teenth,” “June-teenth,” or “June teenth.” The Dictionary of American Regional English records another variant Texan form, “June the tenth,” The legend is that the ‘teenth’ is because the news is delivered on different days to different groups.”

Leslie Wilson, associate dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Montclair State University in New Jersey

Why I wrote this?

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Shout-Outs

  1. The price of freedom (by Walgreen’s)
  2. Juneteenth: A time to reflect, celebrate, educate, and advocate (by Amazon)
  3. BestBuy, Target and Starbucks are among the companies celebrating Juneteenth as PTO or holiday pay (by Keira Wingate)
  4. 14 Juneteenth Quotes to Help You Observe the Holiday (by Emily VanSchmus)
  5. Here’s how big tech companies are celebrating new national holiday, Juneteenth (by Jennifer Elias)
  6. Here are 50 Quotes to Better Understand Juneteenth (By Alliyah Logan)
  7. Two-thirds of Americans believe Juneteenth should be a paid holiday — some employers are finally listening (by Donna M. Owens)
  8. JUNETEENTH: 10 POWERFUL QUOTES TO REMEMBER ON FREEDOM DAY (by Because of them We Can)
  9. Abolition Of Slavery Quotes (by AZ Quotes)
  10. How the ‘Juneteenth’ Name—and Holiday—Spread (by Ben Zimmer)

by in Diversity and Inclusion