Talent Tech Labs Honors Juneteenth

This article detailing the history and importance of Juneteenth was originally published in June of 2020. We’ve refreshed this article with an updated lens on the holiday, with fresh ideas of ways you can honor and celebrate this important milestone.

For many Americans, Independence Day is synonymous with July 4th, a national holiday celebrating the hard-fought freedom of our nation. Independence Day is a remembrance of the struggles our ancestors faced fighting to become a united, free, country with the ability to self-govern.

While Independence Day signifies the freedom of a nation, it does not necessarily symbolize the freedom of all individuals. The freedoms celebrated on July 4th were not extended to include all citizens for a long period of time. In a famous keynote address delivered on Independence Day, Frederick Douglass noted “the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in the Declaration of Independence, aren’t extended to us.”

The reality is that when America won its independence, the fight for freedom continued for countless individuals. It wasn’t until many decades later that true freedom for all was achieved.

@TalentTechLabs aspires to promote equity and justice where it's been long ignored or unequally applied. See how they are celebrating & honoring #Juneteenth: Share on X

The History of Juneteenth

In the United States, there is a separate holiday, known as Juneteenth, that marks a significant and pivotal moment in American history. This holiday celebrates political freedom and justice for all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, or heritage. Juneteenth is the oldest known holiday in the US celebrating the abolition of slavery and calls for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all individuals. Today, Juneteenth is recognized as a Federal holiday, with 49 states and the District of Columbia observing this historic date.

While you may be familiar with the name of the holiday, many people lack a clear understanding of the origins of Juneteenth.

In January 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, outlawing slavery within the United States. While the Proclamation was issued in 1863, it was not immediately put into effect. It wasn’t until June 19th, 1865, more than two full years later, that the freeing of enslaved people occurred. It was this date that came to be known and referred to as Juneteenth — a blend of June and nineteenth — as it commemorated the day that slavery truly ended in the United States.

TTL Honors Innovators

At Talent Tech Labs, we are proud to recognize and celebrate Juneteenth by shining a spotlight on Black innovators who have made profound contributions to the fields of computer science and technology. Join us in honoring these pioneers, many of who have impacted the field of technology in ways that affect you every day. 

Gerald Lawson was an American electronic engineer known for designing the Fairchild Channel F video game console. He spearheaded the team the invented the commercial video game cartridge. Due to his contributions, he is sometimes called the “Father of Modern Gaming.”

Roy L. Clay is an American inventor and computer scientist who played a significant role in the development of Hewlett-Packard and Silicon Valley as we know it today. In fact, some call him the “godfather of black Silicon Valley” because of his contributions to the field.

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson  retired as the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2022 after a 50 year career. She is both the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate degree from MIT and the second African-American woman in the U.S. to earn a doctorate in physics. She is known for advancing telecommunications research at AT&T Bell Laboratories, leading to the creation of the touch-tone phone, portable fax machine, and caller ID technology.

Jacqueline D. Woods served the Chief Marketing Officer for IBM Global Business Partners. She lead with a focus on IBM Cloud and AI technologies, helping to bring these technologies to the public stage. Woods was features by Fortune Magazine as one of 50 Most Powerful Black Executives in America and has been identified by several notable magazines, including NY Times and Wall Street Journal, as a unique, powerful leader in the tech space.

James E. West is known for developing the foil electret microphone that is still used in modern microphones. West has over 250 patents for the design of microphones and techniques for creating polymer foil electrets. In 1999, he joined the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2006, he received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation for his foil electret microphone.

Valerie Thomas is the former Associate Chief of NASA Space Science Data Operations. She is known for inventing the illusion transmitter during her long career at NASA, which is still used today. She spearheaded NASA’s first satellite to send images from outer space and received a patent for the illusion transmitter in 1980.

Mark Dean, an IBM computer engineer and inventor, helped to build the IBM PC in 1981 and built the architecture that connects printers and monitors. He currently holds three of IBM’s nine PC patents. Amongst his other successes, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1997, and April 25 was officially deemed “Mark Dean Day” in Knox County, Tennessee.

Katherine Johnson – If you have seen the film Hidden Figures, you’ve heard of the pioneering work of Katherine Johnson. She was a former Engineer at NASA, known for her calculations that enabled humans to achieve space flight. President Obama awarded Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, and NASA named a facility after her in 2016: the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility.

While TTL celebrates innovators of all backgrounds, on this special holiday, we are honored to spotlight some of the many Black innovators whose contributions have made a monumental impact across the globe.

@TalentTechLabs understands the importance of honoring and celebrating #Juneteenth, as we continue to fight for equity and justice for people of all walks of life. See how you can celebrate the historic holiday: Share on X

Three Ways You Can Honor Juneteenth

You might be wondering what options and opportunities are available for you to celebrate Juneteenth outside of the workplace. We’ve taken the time to highlight a few different ways you can spend your time on Juneteenth to reflect on and honor the historic and important holiday:

1. Learn the Full History

One of the most important things you can do is take time to read about Juneteenth, so you can truly grasp the importance of such a holiday. Before any change can be made, you need to educate yourself on the struggles and tribulations individuals faced in our past. There are countless resources and materials out there for people of all ages to read so that they can understand the story of slavery, its lasting impacts, and its importance in American history. For a list of books geared toward children, teens, and adults, check out this list curated by Boston University.

2. Support Black-Owned Businesses

One of the most common ways people celebrate and honor Juneteenth is through supporting Black-Owned businesses. Often, major retailers partner with Black-Owned companies to promote products and services from Black working professionals. Supporting Black-Owned companies goes beyond simply contributing to their profits. When individuals shop and support Black-Owned Businesses, they are advancing and contributing to economic and entrepreneurial equity for historically underserved communities. In many cases, this serves as a means for lower-income families and populations to move up in economic prosperity. Below, we’ve created a list of a few different Black-Owned organizations you can support this Juneteenth:

  • Blk Market Vintage — Providers of vintage home goods aimed at preserving Black culture.
  • Blk & Bold — A Black-Owned coffee and tea company with a commitment to supporting at-risk youth.
  • Puzzle Huddle — A company that promotes inclusive imagery on puzzles for people of all races and ethnicities.
  • MahoganyBooks — A family-operated bookstore providing a culturally diverse space for people to share and learn.
  • Black Girl Sunscreen — A sunscreen brand specifically catered to Black women’s skin.
  • Black Girls Breathing — Mental health is highly important, and so is feeling safe and comfortable in your environment. This organization creates a safe space for Black women to focus on their mental health and mindfulness.
  • Jungalow – Colorful, limited edition home goods that are inspired by nature.
  • Estelle Colored Glass – Uniquely colored, hand-blown glasses.

Clearly, this list is nowhere near exhaustive of the countless Black-Owned businesses around the United States and the globe. Spend some time researching which organizations exist within your own communities, so that you can help contribute to equal opportunities for all.

3. Donate To Supportive Organizations

Another way to honor and celebrate Juneteenth is through donating and supporting organizations that support and uplift Black communities. This is a great way of providing help and making the difference we’re unable to on our own. There are countless great organizations to consider. We’ve created a shortlist of a few different organizations to help start you on your way:

  • American Civil Liberties Union — A nonprofit created to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country.
  • Audre Lorde Project — A Brooklyn, New York-based organization for LGBT people of color that organizes nonviolent community activism.
  • Bail Project — A nonprofit that aims to pay bail for people who are not financially capable of doing so themselves, to reunite families and preserve the notion of presumed innocence.
  • Black Journalists Therapy Relief Fund — An organization that provides assistance for Black journalists facing financial hardship, so they can access the mental health resource they need.

Once again, this list is not exhaustive. There are countless other organizations that work to support and uplift people of color. Take some time this June to do some research on the various charities and nonprofits that exist, so you can make an informed decision on whom you donate to.

Additional Resources for Juneteenth

There is a website entirely devoted to Juneteenth that offers a more in-depth context of its history, festivities, its decline as well as its resurgence, and the modern perspective of the holiday.

Juneteenth Website

The National Museum of African American History and Culture published an article detailing the significance of Juneteenth and its lasting impact on modern history.

NMAAHC News Article

How Talent Tech Labs Can Help

By educating, engaging, supporting, and fostering inclusivity, businesses can honor this holiday in a way that resonates deeply within their internal community and company culture. This Juneteenth and beyond, be inspired to continuously find ways to further implement inclusivity within your organization. Make it a place where diversity is not just acknowledged but celebrated meaningfully and with intention.

Leveraging innovation and technology can be instrumental in bolstering your workplace diversity and inclusion initiatives. Talent Tech Labs is here to advise on technological solutions tailored to meet your specific needs. To learn how we can help with your diversity and inclustion technology strategy, contact us today!