Happy Juneteenth, everybody! And what a special Juneteenth it is.
This year, our holiday commemorating the end of slavery is happening right in the middle of a time when the Black Lives Matter movement is receiving the most widespread attention and support, possibly, since its inception. Now, four Democratic senators are introducing legislation that would make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
From a press release sent to The Root:
Washington (June 19, 2020) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.). and Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) today announced they will introduce Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. “Juneteenth”, observed on June 19, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States and is also known as “Emancipation Day”, “Jubilee Day”, and “Juneteenth Independence Day”. On June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, Major General Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3, which announced that, in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation, “all slaves are free”. The legislation also calls for establishment of a Juneteenth Federal Holiday Commission to encourage appropriate ceremonies and activities throughout the United States.
Juneteenth currently is recognized by 46 states and the District of Columbia as an official state holiday or observance. In 1980, Texas was the first state to recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday. This year marks the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth.
Calls to make Juneteenth a federal holiday have been gaining momentum amid nationwide protests and demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd. The national conversation on systemic racism and police brutality seems larger than it has ever been.
Last Tuesday, Gov. Ralph Northam declared Juneteenth a paid holiday for the state of Virginia and, on Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he will sign an executive order to make the day a holiday for New York State employees and that he will also propose legislation to make it an official state holiday next year.
Hopefully, by this time next year, Juneteenth will be a nationally recognized federal holiday celebrated in all 50 states.