Learn about Juneteenth, a day to celebrate freedom

Illustration of Juneteenth flag on a dark green background, next to photo of Diane smiling in a "Keep It Brewing" tshirt

This Juneteenth, join us in deepening our understanding of the history of this important holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. What is the significance of Juneteenth? How has it been celebrated over the last 150 years? What does it mean for us today? Explore the educational resources below and hear from a partner (employee) who shares her reflections on the holiday.

In this video, hear from Dr. Leslie M. Alexander and Dr. Rashad Shabazz, both professors of African and African American Studies at Arizona State University and contributors to the To Be Welcoming curriculum, to discover the historical context of Juneteenth and its significance today.
ASU Logo - Arizona State University

Learn about the history of Juneteenth with this brief downloadable summary from Arizona State University.

What is Juneteenth?

EJI - Equal Justice Initiative Logo

To see how Juneteenth is acknowledged in the context of current events, visit Equal Justice Initiative (EJI)’s Juneteenth entry from its calendar timeline, “A History of Racial Injustice.” 

Join the celebration with activities from the National Museum of African American Culture and History.

'Progress made isn't progress secured'

The holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. is a moment for a Starbucks vice president to celebrate and reflect on all the work that’s been done—and all the work that’s still left to do.

Diane Terry wearing black facial covering and Keep It Brewing tshirt, holding a Starbucks mug

Story by Michael Ko/Photos by Josh Trujillo and Connor Surdi

Before she was Diane Terry, the Starbucks vice president in charge of global beverage product, she was Diane Billingsley, the high school student in Detroit, a quiet kid who loved math and science.

Her junior year, her chemistry teacher arranged for her and her friend to visit his alma mater, Tennessee State University, an HBCU (historically black college and university) in Nashville. She toured the campus, met with the dean of the College of Engineering and soaked up the culture.  

“I got there and I saw a lot of students who looked like me, who were focused on higher education,” Terry recalls. “It just felt like excellence was around me, and I was so inspired by meeting students who were pre-med, pursuing law, future policy makers, entertainers, engineers. It was highly competitive, but there was this community. You could see that camaraderie, that support, the energy and vibe that I could relate to.

“I knew I could really come here and find my voice and be my own person and be a part of this community.”

Remembering her roots is important to Terry – how she grew from that kid who loved school and solving problems, to the Tennessee State college graduate who thrived in manufacturing and production as an electrical engineer at Ford, to Starbucks, where she directed the rollout of the signature in-store Nitro Cold Brew two-tap platform before her recent promotion.

For Terry, the story of how far she and her family have come feels especially relevant on the verge of Juneteenth, the holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. Terry, the executive champion of the Starbucks Black Partner Network, a partner (employee) resource group, will raise the Juneteenth flag at the Starbucks Support Center in Seattle.

“When I think about Juneteenth, it will be a moment for me to reflect,” Terry says, “not only in terms of commemorating our freedom from slavery, but also commemorating everything that’s happened over the last year – the social movement, the reckoning that has happened around the fight for racial justice and racial equality.

“It’s a moment to reflect on how I’ve grown as an individual and how I can continue to use my voice and platform to support change, to help others, to be part of the conversations that need to happen, to educate, to make meaningful changes where I can, whether it’s in my role as a leader, in my family, in my community, in policy as well.”

Juneteenth marks the day that Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, to announce that the approximately 250,000 enslaved Black people in the state were free by executive decree. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued two years prior but took time to implement, especially in places like Texas that were still under Confederate control. Many African Americans view June 19 as their Independence Day and celebrate it as many people celebrate the 4th of July.

Terry’s parents grew up in Mississippi and were part of the Great Migration, a movement of an estimated six million African Americans who left the South behind in search of greater economic and social opportunities. They traveled north to Chicago, eventually settling in Detroit, where Terry remembers how they championed education for her and her five siblings, role modeled strong values and “made me believe in myself, that there was nothing I couldn’t do.”

“I grew up in a community that really looked out for each other, supported each other,” Terry says. “It was a very tight-knit community, a strong community. To me, Detroit was a place where I got foundation. I got support, I got love, I got a lot of strength.”

Every two years, her extended family gathers from all corners of the country – they often change the destinations – to connect, to reconnect, to cook, to laugh, to remember those who’ve passed on. “My family has a tradition of family reunions,” Terry says, “to celebrate who we are and where we came from. Juneteenth was kind of embedded in who we are, that moment to celebrate our heritage, to celebrate our Black history.”

Juneteenth also has a rich food tradition and is often celebrated with red foods and red drinks. Red has become a both a symbol of resilience and a link to food in times past: the red kola nuts and bissap (hibiscus tea) that came to the Americas from West Africa during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

“When I think about the tradition of families coming together over shared meals, my mom’s the one who’s always been the rock of the family, supporting us, our biggest champion, an amazing cook,” Terry says. “My mom is at the center of that, she’s the unconditional rock. I talk to my mom every day.”

She shared a strong bond with her father as well, through a mutual love of sports, especially baseball, and math. He passed away in 2016. "He was and always will be my hero," she says.

She hopes to pass on the same kind of legacy her parents left her – for her son, daughter and niece, all college graduates; as a board member with MUST (Mentoring Urban Students and Teens), a Seattle nonprofit that tries to break the cycle of generational poverty; and as a mentor to women and young girls interested in STEM careers.

When she joined Starbucks 18 years ago, she was only one of two female engineers on her team. She feels proud of the work she’s done not only to inspire young girls and women outside the company, but to elevate the voices of the women engineers already here.

“I know I’m a role model in my community, but also for women who are interested in pursuing and growing their careers, especially in a STEM field,” Terry says. “It means a lot to me personally to be here and to lead, to be trusted in our core business. It speaks to the trust I’ve built and the hard work, but also my passion and my commitment to the organization, to having a bigger impact.”

But, Terry knows, “progress made isn’t progress secured.” While it’s time to celebrate, it’s also time to acknowledge the work left to do – personally and professionally in her new role and in her community, and societally, in making sure she’s working towards a truly better future.

“While there’s been progress in certain things, from Juneteenth to Rosa Parks to the Civil Rights movements, we have to continue to fight for racial equality,” Terry says. “We have a lot of work to do.”

thumbnail for Starbucks new colorful merch collaboration honors Women’s History Month

Starbucks new colorful merch collaboration honors Women’s History Month