“It’s overdue,” the 41-year-old Milwaukee resident said. “It’s an Independence Day for us.”   Parham is glad her company quickly embraced the holiday, though she never thought Juneteenth would be declared a federal holiday.  

Federal employees get to take off Juneteenth – feted Sunday but observed on Monday this year. But nongovernment workers may not be so lucky. Nationally, everyone celebrates these public holidays, but they apply only to federal employees, since many states, cities and other local municipalities decide their own legal holidays, according to the Congressional Research Service report. 

Corporate America and private companies decide which of the 12 federal holidays (if you count Inauguration Day) employees get as paid days off. And for many companies in Milwaukee, it will be business as usual, though some have planned activities and ceremonies to mark the occasion. Some Black historians say that doesn't go far enough.  

Blacks have amassed a long list of achievements and contributions to this country that go unrecognized. Juneteenth should not be one of them, said Reggie Jackson, co-founder of Nurturing Diversity Partners.

His organization offers education, training and consulting services that foster diversity, inclusion, and equity. Juneteenth, he added, is one of two days on the calendar dedicated to the accomplishments of Black Americans. 

For corporations to not observe the holiday shows a superficial understanding of the holiday and its importance to the Black community, Jackson said.

“The fact that we have been celebrating this for 50 years in Milwaukee should say something to the people in these corporations,” he said. “What’s going on that you are not acknowledging it?”

Marquette University professor Robert Smith was surprised to learn some area companies were not observing the holiday.

“I just assumed if it’s a holiday, you are supposed to take the day off,” said Smith, director of the Center for Urban Research, Teaching and Outreach.

He has given his staff the day off and has cancelled meetings with students. The center is housed in Marquette University, which will be open on the Juneteenth holiday, but also has activities to mark the occasion.