Recognition of June 1, the effective end of slavery in the United States, came into force after the police assassination of George Floyd in 2020. But after the initial action, the movement to recognize it as an official holiday in the states was largely stopped.
Although almost every state recognizes Juneteenth in some way, many have been slow to do more than issue proclamations or resolutions, even as some continue to commemorate the Confederacy.
Lawmakers in Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and other states have failed to advance proposals this year that would close state offices and give most of their public servants paid free time for the June 19 holidays.
This trend infuriates black leaders and community organizers who believe that junteenth paid vacation is the minimum government officials can do to help pay tribute to an often neglected and ignored piece of American history.
“June marks a date of great significance in American history. It represents the ways in which freedom for blacks has been delayed,” said Democratic spokesman Anthony Nolan, who is black as he advocated making junteenth a paid vacation in Connecticut. floor of the house. “And if we put this off, it’s a blow to blacks.”
June 1865 marks the time when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved blacks in Galveston, Texas, in 1865, two months after the Confederacy surrendered in the Civil War and about two years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the southern states.
Officially recognized in 2021
Last year, Congress and President Joe Biden quickly took steps to make June the national holiday. It was the first time the federal government had designated a new national holiday since it approved Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983. However, the move did not result in automatic adoption in most states.
In Alabama this week, Republican Gov. Kay Ivey issued another proclamation making June 11 a public holiday after lawmakers refused to act on a bill during their legislative session, even after she voiced strong support for doing so. a permanent holiday in 2021. The state closes for Confederation Remembrance Day in April.
Similarly, Wyoming Republican Gov. Mark Gordon issued a statement last June saying he would work with lawmakers to make it a public holiday, but no law was passed during the 2022 session.
In Tennessee, Republican Gov. Bill Lee has quietly poured in enough money – about $ 700,000 – to make June 18th a state-paid vacation in his initial spending plan for next year. The bill did come into force in the state Senate, but GOP legislative leaders have argued that there is not enough support for the idea, even as Tennessee law currently prescribes special celebrations for Robert E. Day. Lee, Confederation Decoration Day and Nathan Bedford Forrest Day.
“I’ve asked a lot of people in my district in the last few days, more than 100 people, if they know what Juntenth is, and only two of them know,” said Republican Sen. Joey Hensley, who is white and voted against the proposal. “I just think we put the car in front of a horse that makes a holiday that people don’t know about.
In South Carolina, instead of working on approving June 16 as a holiday, Senate lawmakers unanimously proposed a law that would allow civil servants to choose any day they want to leave instead of Confederate Remembrance Day, which is currently prescribed as a paid holiday in state law. . However, the House sent the draft to the commission, where it passed away without a hearing when the Legislative Assembly adjourned the session.
At the same time, many of these Republican-led areas have advanced laws that limit what can be learned about systematic racism in classrooms, while also encouraging proposals aimed at expanding voting rights and police reform.
Six recent adoptions
This year, nearly 20 states are expected to close state offices and give a free majority to their public servants. At least six states have officially adopted the holiday in the past few months, including Connecticut, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, South Dakota, Utah and Washington. The bill, which was presented in California, passed the Assembly and was transferred to the Senate this month, and some cities, such as Los Angeles, have already signed the proclamations that made Juneteenth official.
“Becoming a public holiday will not only give employees a day off, but will also give residents a day to think about the future we want, and to remember the inequalities of the past,” said Democratic delegate Andrea Harrison, who sponsored the June Maryland Act. . “It will help us imagine how far we have come as a nation, how much more we need to do as humanity.
Attempts to pay Juneteent the same respect as Remembrance Day or Fourth of July did not take effect until 2020, when protests sparked a nationwide initiative to solve the race following the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the deaths of other blacks by police. officers.
“George Floyd’s protests against police brutality raised awareness in the 19th century because there were people of all races who first learned about its importance after the public push to educate themselves and learn more about black history, culture and injustice,” said Tramain Jasper, a resident. and a Phoenix business owner who attended the June celebrations in Arizona with his family.
Some cities in Arizona, including Phoenix, have declared June 1 an official holiday, paying city employees and closing municipal buildings. However, lawmakers are not currently considering state-wide recognition.
“There are many other important issues we need to address – education, political issues, reparations – before giving priority to the 13th to be a national holiday,” Jasper said, noting that those who want to celebrate know where to go.
Jasper, who was born and raised in Arizona, said it would be a “tough battle” for the state to recognize Juntain because there is not a large enough black population outside its largest cities to do so.
Arizona was also slow in recognizing Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but did not do so until 1992. It was one of the last states to officially recognize a civil rights leader.