Celebrating Juneteenth: The Good, The Bad, and The Cringe

Today is the second anniversary of a federally recognized Juneteenth national holiday. Becoming law in 2022, many American companies are still in the dark about this important day and how to celebrate it in an authentic way. As a result, several brands have missed the mark and with it, an important chance to connect with their consumers.

What is Juneteenth all about?

Let’s get you up to speed.

Growing up, everyone is taught about Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation signed January 1, 1863. This monumental document meant the end of slavery! Honest Abe was an American hero. Unfortunately, for hundreds of thousands of enslaved people, this law meant nothing. “The proclamation only applied to places under Confederate control and not to slave-holding border states or rebel areas already under Union control.” (History Channel)

Since Texas had experienced no large-scale fighting or significant presence of Union troops, it effectively became a loophole - a place where slavery could not be outlawed. For over two years, slavery persisted in the state of Texas. Until, finally, in June of 1865, General Granger’s arrival in Galveston signaled freedom for Texas’s 250,000 enslaved people. This day, known as Juneteenth, marked the official end of slavery in the United States.

How to “Do it Right”

In this day and age, a company can go viral and even “get canceled” for saying the wrong thing so quickly. This leads many businesses to avoid any mention of subjects they don’t know how to navigate- which can be equally problematic. If you’re walking on eggshells or just wondering how to celebrate Juneteenth with respect and intention, we’ve got you covered.

1. Actions Speak Louder Than Words: An Instagram post or email blast is nice and all… but you should be doing more. Take this holiday as an opportunity to educate your employees, have tough conversations around diversity and inclusion in the workplace, or volunteer in the community.

2. Dig Deeper: Consumers are savvy. They pick up on performative allyship easily and aren’t afraid to call you out. Instead, invest real time and resources into bridging the gap and making your business a more equitable place. Then, your celebration of this new holiday will be inherently more authentic.

3. Recognition without Monetization: For better or for worse, Labor Day and Memorial Day have become synonymous with sales and discounts galore. Last year, in a flurry of excitement, companies like Walmart released entire lines of Juneteenth related products, to serious backlash. As this article in AdWeek aptly put it, “People get offended, it doesn’t work, it doesn’t resonate, and it ends up on Twitter the next day.” We have an opportunity to do things differently. The focus should be on celebrating the black experience, not selling a t-shirt.

Why It Matters:

Aside from the historical and cultural relevance of celebrating Juneteenth, Black Americans are also a powerful consumer demographic, and research shows they reward companies that get representation right. According to this article from Insider Intelligence, “Black households spent 5.7 percentage points more of their annual expenditures on products such as food, clothing, and personal care than the US average in 2020.”  

Highlights and Lowlights: Let’s take a look at some brands doing it right and some brands who could learn a thing or two.


Home Depot & Piedmont Health: The HomeDepot Backyard is an outdoor event space in Atlanta Georgia that celebrated Juneteenth this year by throwing a rocking weekend event for the holiday. Piedmont Health, a nonprofit system of hospitals in Georgia, sponsored the event and truly put their money where their mouth was by supporting and uplifting the black community.

Target: Target is doing it right by promoting the black owned or founded brands they carry. They also launched a new series on Youtube, My Cart is Full, to celebrate Black founders and creators highlighting their connection to their community. Let’s hope they keep this up all year!


Last year The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis was called out for selling a “Juneteenth watermelon salad,” which was widely criticized as stereotyping

Walmart released a Juneteenth themed ice cream that got so much negative attention they ended up pulling the product and making a public apology.

Conversation Starter: How are you going to celebrate Juneteenth this year? Are you going to do anything differently after reading this article? Let us know in the comments below!

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