Understanding and Honoring Juneteenth Through the Lens of Travel
Sojern commemorates the end of slavery and reflects on its impact.
At Sojern, we work to celebrate and understand the cultures and experiences of those around us. On June 19th, the newly declared federal holiday of Juneteenth, we commemorate the end of slavery in the United States and reflect on the impacts of its history.
While slavery was banned with the Emancipation Proclamation two and a half years prior, June 19th, 1865, marks the day Major General Gordon Granger finally reached Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and to enforce the executive order, freeing the enslaved.
In our journey to reflect on and understand the cultures around us, we are examining how the travel experience has evolved for African-Americans throughout history.
It is that time of year when many of us are thinking about and looking forward to our summer travel plans. With travel top of mind, let's step into the shoes of an African-American family vacationing nearly 100 years after officially being "freed."
Imagine - It’s summer in 1955, and you’ve been working to provide a good life for your family. You have almost achieved “middle-class” status, meaning you have extra funds to afford a vehicle and a home you feel safe in–basic comforts many African Americans considered a luxury. Working overtime left you with enough residual income to go on that vacation you promised your children, but could never quite afford.
The key to a successful family vacation is proper planning. Technically, you can take your family anywhere they want to go. But, the legal freedom you’ve been granted doesn’t eradicate discriminatory laws, beliefs, and practices. To have a safe vacation, you need an extra layer of planning focused on locales most accepting of your darker complexion. After your research, you land on a destination both safe and fun for your family.
After thinking through your transportation options, driving is the best route. Though your kids love trains, it's not worth waiting in segregated waiting rooms and walking past the nicer, whites-only section to your dilapidated accommodations. Flying isn’t an option either, because of the price and the risk of the airline giving away your seats to a white family.
The next step is planning the activities to fill your day. Your experience will be decided by legally binding signs instructing you on where you are and are not welcome. If your children want to take a sip out of the nicer water fountain, they can’t. Your hotel does not have air conditioning, but taking a dip at the nearby pool is not an option either. Throughout your vacation, you’re reminded that no matter how hard you’ve worked, you won’t be viewed as equal because of your skin color.
Now, you’ve survived your vacation. On the drive home, your family still feels burdened by the discomforts you experienced. Peering back into the rearview, your eyes meet two smiling faces and you decide to focus on the fun your family had instead of the inconveniences.
Although 1955 seems like a long time ago, those same children in that backseat would be in their 70s today.
Racial inequality is not a new challenge. As a travel technology company, Embrace Inclusion is one of our core values because we are shaped by the thoughts, cultures, and ideas of people all over the world. Celebrating Juneteenth allows us to remember the resilience and solidarity of Black communities throughout history and the importance of supporting our Black employees, customers, partners, and friends moving forward. It’s a reminder to step back and view the fight for true equality through the historic lens of the Black experience and confront how it continues to impact American society today.
Build experiences that welcome LGBTQ+ travelers with open arms.
Sophia Hyder Hock talks diversity, equity, and inclusion with Sojern.
Destinations must create safe, welcoming, and inclusive spaces.
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