Nonprofit Governance and the Evolution of Juneteenth

Nonprofit Governance and the Evolution of Juneteenth

The Evolution of Juneteenth Shows the Outcomes of Nonprofit Governance


By Heyward Watson


For the last 156 years, Juneteenth has been an observed holiday. But not in every state at the same time. It has been an evolution.


Originally, Juneteenth came about in June 1865 when enslaved Black people in Texas learned of the Emancipation Proclamation. The last enslaved people of the Confederacy were officially declared free.


The celebration of African American freedom continued in Texas and several other locations across the United States as an unofficial holiday. Millions of African Americans and other advocates joined together in creating a movement. 


Over the years, in different states, Juneteenth has had several different names, such as Emancipation Day or Black Independence Day.


In 2021, Juneteenth became an official federal holiday. 


Outcomes of Nonprofit Governance


Lately, I have been considering how the evolution of the Juneteenth celebration follows Third Sector Company’s “Outcomes of Nonprofit Governance” taught in the board learning program, Board Chairs Academy.


The outcomes of nonprofit governance include six components: 


1. Evolve the Organization with the Community 


2. Engage the Community to Advocate the Cause (Mission)


3. Guarantee the Community a Resilient and Responsible Organization


4. Create Measured Community Impact 


5. Cultivate the Next Community Leaders for the Cause


6. Mobilize an Equitable and Inclusive Work Process to Serve the Community


First, let us look at how the evolution of the Juneteenth celebration included an evolving organization and a clear sense of purpose. 


I argue that the cause behind Juneteenth is the continuous will of Black people to celebrate the milestone of freedom. Over time, this clear sense of purpose formed a national Juneteenth organization to support them. 


Demonstrated values and pursuit of a cause created an organization to support communities and have an impact. 


They evolved together.


Next, a network of shared values spread out across several hundred smaller organizations throughout the country. To reach the goal of celebrating the official end of slavery and involuntary servitude, there required longstanding resiliency and support.


As organizations grew and continued pursuing the cause for a national federal holiday designation, community leaders needed to be cultivated. Over 156 years, it is safe to say that genuine support was cultivated from generations of leaders sharing a common cause of a national holiday celebrating the beginning of full United States citizenship for African Americans.


The story of freedom and equal rights for African Americans is not complete. The struggle to gain full civil rights that continues to this day is also an evolution.


On behalf of the Third Sector Company, I wish everyone a happy, safe, and peaceful Juneteenth Celebration in 2022.


If you are interested in evolving your nonprofit governance, I encourage you to review the Board Chairs Academy Fact Sheet and sign up for the next Introduction to the Academy in August. Or reach out to me with any questions.


Heyward Watson
Senior Strategist – Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Third Sector Company, Inc.