A message from Tilson’s EVP of Workforce Adria Horn:
Juneteenth, June 19th, 2021, just became the first, new national federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983. On June 17, 2021, President Biden signed a bill into law establishing Juneteenth the date commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. Celebrated on June 19th, Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the US. The holiday was first celebrated in Texas, where on that date in 1865, in the aftermath of the Civil War, slaves were declared free under the terms of the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation. With such short notice of this historic change, Tilson will officially recognize Juneteenth as an observed holiday starting in 2022.
Candidly, I had never heard of Juneteenth until Juneteenth 2020 following the death of George Floyd. I grew up in New Hampshire, went to school in New York and became engrossed in wars on foreign soil. My thoughts were always about home but my body, eyes and actions were far from home. I’ve been learning so much about our country through my children. And a year of remote schooling brought that to the forefront.
In May 2021, my 4th grader brought home her 2nd book report and project assignment of the Spring. At her choosing, she first chose to read and learn about Amelia Earhart. Again at her choosing, she chose to learn about Harriet Tubman. I loved learning and relearning about both these history-making women with her and through her eyes. Simply put they were tired of their times, ahead of their time and made changes in this world for all time.
Time. What a prominent theme. Admittedly, I did not know how and how much Harriet Tubman accomplished. I encourage you read about her challenging, committed and rewarding life. With her two brothers, she escaped slavery in 1849 by using the Underground Railroad where they fled from Maryland to Pennsylvania. The Underground Railroad was a series of escape routes, trails, rivers, safe houses and allies that slaves in southern slave states used to flee north to the free states. Once a slave entered a free state, he or she was considered free. Back and forth, north and south Harriet went. Family, friends, others – anyone who wanted to head north, Harriet was willing to help them. She became known as the Conductor of the Underground Railroad. But in 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act passed, making it legal to capture escaped, fugitive or freed workers in the northern, free states. Undeterred and with a $40,000 bounty on her head by Slave Hunters, she extended her trips and brought slaves over the border to Canada for their freedom. $40,000 in the 1850s would be worth about $1.3 million dollars. In the military, we would classify someone like Harriet Tubman as a High Value Individual, which makes sense because she then used her status to support the Union troops fighting against the Confederacy. She was highly valuable on so many fronts but our perception of her where and how she was so valuable has changed over time.
She helped more than 300 slaves over a ten year period. In September 1862, President Lincoln issued the first Emancipation Proclamation. Effective January 1, 1863, all enslaved people in the states currently engaged in rebellion against the Union [meaning only the Confederate States] “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” In the accounts of Harriet Tubman’s life, I was struck by how much things stayed the same after the Emancipation Proclamation. It became harder to find work and free was more of a notion that an action. And without understanding our history at the time, I overlooked the fact that the proclamation did not actually apply to everyone.
“The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t instantly free any enslaved people. The proclamation only applied to places under Confederate control and not to slave-holding border states or rebel areas already under Union control. In Texas, slavery had continued as the state experienced no large-scale fighting or significant presence of Union troops. Many enslavers from outside the Lone Star State had moved there, as they viewed it as a safe haven for slavery. After the war came to a close in the spring of 1865, General Granger’s arrival in Galveston that June signaled freedom for Texas’s 250,000 enslaved people. Although emancipation didn’t happen overnight for everyone—in some cases, enslavers withheld the information until after harvest season—celebrations broke out among newly freed Black people, and Juneteenth was born. That December, slavery in America was formally abolished with the adoption of the 13th Amendment.
The year following 1865, freedmen in Texas organized the first of what became the annual celebration of “Jubilee Day” on June 19. In the ensuing decades, Juneteenth commemorations featured music, barbecues, prayer services and other activities, and as Black people migrated from Texas to other parts of the country the Juneteenth tradition spread. In 1979, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday; several others followed suit over the years.”
By relearning about Harriet Tubman in the context of Juneteenth, it makes total sense that I never knew about it. I grew up in New Hampshire. I now live in Maine. I have never been to Texas. But it’s amazing to think that I learned about a portion of our country’s history but not all of the history and it took learning about Harriet Tubman through the eyes of my daughter in the time of COVID to really get it. It took a lot of time, but now I know and I can’t unlearn it. When you google Juneteenth, there are quite a few articles titled, “How do you celebrate Juneteenth?” I think learning a bit more about our history I didn’t know is the real celebration.
Time. 1865 to 2021. Bad news doesn’t get better with time. Time heals all wounds. Time stands still. Time waits for no one. Give it time. Lost time is never found again. In due time. It’s about time. It’s time.
As Tilson’s Executive Vice President of Workforce, Adria leads Tilson’s global workforce strategy by deepening Tilson’s internal training and career pathing, and partnering with educational institutions, industry, and the military in building Tilson’s world class team of technical professionals. Prior to joining Tilson, Adria served as Director of Maine’s Bureau of Veterans Services for three years, where she led local and national veteran outreach and legislative initiatives. A graduate of West Point, she received her MBA from Northeastern University. After 11 years on Active Duty and multiple deployments, she worked on behalf of United States Senator Susan Collins in her Portland Field Office. Horn is currently a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army Reserve with United States Pacific Command.