United Airlines celebrated Juneteenth with a historic flight from Houston to Chicago featuring an all-black team of employees.
What Is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. While Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 freed all slaves in the Confederacy, it was more than two years until the news reached slaves in Texas. Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865 bringing word to thousands of slaves that they no longer were under bondage.
The former slaves reacted in jubilee, celebrating with prayer, hymns, and spiritual songs. This moment in time has been celebrated annually since it happened, but only recently became a U.S. federal holiday.
United Airlines Juneteenth Celebration – Special All-Black Flight
To celebrate Juneteenth in 2021, United Airlines operated a very special flight from Houston Bush Intercontinental (IAH) to Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) on Saturday morning, June 20, 2021. All team members who worked on Flight 1258 were black. That included:
- flight crew
- gate agents
- ramp staf
- maintenance technicians
- flight dispatchers (in Houston and Chicago)
Passengers aboard the Boeing 787-9 were treated to pre-flight speeches and music and a water cannon salute. Even Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner spoke prior to the flight. But perhaps the coolest aspect of the whole experience was when Captain Sal Crocker played the saxophone.
Here are some pictures and videos from the flight:
all images courtesy of United
Why This Matters
A self-identified United pilot wrote me, griping about what occurred. He said:
“Imagine if United had assembled an all-white team to celebrate European heritage. It would be the scandal of the century.”
But I think he misses the point.
Speaking as a white American, I am so proud of what occurred. Not because I’m riddled with guilt over crimes against humanity that neither I nor my ancestors participated in (on the contrary, my ancestors fought in the Union Army to liberate slaves). Not because I celebrate a toxic and divisive racial agenda that seeks to pit races against one another.
I celebrate this occurrence because it shows how much progress has been made. Oh, there is always more work to be done. We must all do more to treat one another with dignity and respect, an elusive and often-difficult goal when it comes to moving from theoretical to practical. But think how far we have come: from a nation in which most blacks were kidnapped slaves with no legal rights to a nation in which we celebrate the potential of life, liberty, and the pursuit of the happiness for all as more than just a hollow aspiration.
I’m thrilled to live in a nation that has made progress in combatting racial inequities. This flight demonstrates the sort of progress we should all celebrate and unite around.
United Airlines celebrated a historic Juneteenth flight from IAH to ORD on Saturday. As we reflect upon the end of a horrible chapter in American history and look forward toward a day when all will have equal opportunity to succeed, let us also not forget the progress that has been made, as demonstrated by the all-black team of UA1258.