Juneteenth is not a legal holiday in most states

A year after Juneteenth became a federal holiday to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States, most states have yet to implement the Juneteenth legal holiday.

When President Joe Biden signed the holiday into federal law on June 17, 2021, only a handful of states had Juneteen holidays with paid time off for state employees: Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon. , Texas, Virginia and Washington.

At least eight have extended Juneteenth to a paid state holiday in the past year: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Nebraska, Ohio and South Dakota.

Long celebrated in the black community as Independence Day, Independence Day or Emancipation Day, Juneteenth is a time for get-togethers, picnics, music, and reflection. The establishment of federal and state legal Juneteenth holidays guarantees a focus on the painful United States history still unknown to many Americans, an annual appraisal of racism in society, and a celebration of black culture, history, and achievement.

“It’s an issue of respect,” Oregon Democratic State Sen. Lew Frederick, who passed the Juneteenth bill unanimously, said in an interview. “We need to understand what our history is and move on from there. It will raise our awareness of other issues related to the history of racism in this country.”

June is short for June 19, the day in 1865 when US Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and read General Order Number 3, which informed the approximately 250,000 enslaved people in Texas that they were free. The handwritten order states, “All slaves are free. It involves the full equality of personal rights and property rights between former owners and slaves, and the relationship already existing between them becomes that of employer and hired labour.”

President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in states that were in rebellion against the Confederacy on January 1, 1863, but the Union troops were two and a half years to enforce the order of the Western Confederate States. did not reach. In January 1865, Congress passed the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery throughout the country. General Robert E. Lee surrendered to the last major Confederate Army in April, and the 13th Amendment was ratified the following December.

Texas was the first state to have an official Juneteenth holiday in 1980. But it wasn’t until the 2020 police killing of George Floyd triggered the racial count that the federal and state Juneteenth holidays made up for it elsewhere.

Each state decides its own state government holidays, and there is no centralized tracking of Juneteen state legal holidays.

In some states, the cost of a vacation to another state has been cited as a deterrent, because of a lack of awareness about Juneteenth.

In Connecticut, where only two lawmakers voted against making Juneteen a paid state holiday, State Rep. Gail Mastrofrancesco, a Republican, said in an interview: “My only objection is, it’s another paid holiday.” He said workers in the state can now earn 46 paid days in a year – 15 vacation days, 15 sick days, three personal days and now 13 holidays.

“Nine weeks! I don’t think anyone in the private sector is getting that much time off with pay,” she said.

Connecticut State Sen. Rob Sampson, a Republican and another “no” vote, said in an interview, “Junethane is very important to me. The reason I became a Republican is Abraham Lincoln.”

But, he said, the extra leave was “a reach for us”. The legislature had passed a 2.5% annual wage increase for each of the four years as well as bonuses for state employees.

As ranking members of the committee that oversees government administration, Mastrofrancesco and Sampson tried to persuade their Republican colleagues to vote against the holiday, but none did.

“I agree that they were wrong, and so were the Democrats,” Sampson said.

For some legislators, Juneteenth is particularly personal. In Connecticut, during a three-hour emotional debate, several state representatives shared stories of their experiences with racism and bullying.

“I was pulled in different ways depending on who was speaking,” Democratic State Rep. Geraldo Reyes Jr., chairman of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, who presided over the debate, said in an interview.

“I can understand the logic from the other side, but it’s not just about dollars and cents,” he said. “It’s part of a restoration that’s never made for people of color, I believe will benefit everyone.”

Many Connecticut lawmakers said they hadn’t heard of Juneteenth, Reyes said, and he himself only learned about it six or seven years ago when there was a local celebration.

In Oregon, during a debate over the Juneteenth holiday last year, Frederick, 70, spoke about his personal history in the civil rights movement in the South—he first experienced tear gas in a demonstration at age 8—and generations. Showed pictures of his family.

“All we’re doing is admitting that Oregon started on the wrong foot,” Frederick told Stateline. In the 1840s, Oregon’s provisional government passed the Black Exclusion Act, which prohibited black people from settling there. Admitted into the union in 1859 with a black-exclusion clause, Oregon was the only state that only joined as whites.

Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Lee included money for the Juneteenth state holiday in his proposed budget this year. State Sen. Joy Hensley, a Republican, told a February committee hearing that he asked more than a hundred people in his district what Juneteenth was, and only two of them knew, after the GOP-controlled legislature. The paid vacation offer died.

“I think it’s putting the cart before the horse for the holiday that people don’t know about. We need to first educate the people and then celebrate the holiday when needed,” Hensley said.

“It was really disappointing,” Tennessee State Sen. Roumesh Akbari, a Democrat who sponsored the Juneteenth bill, said in an interview. “We think it’s important enough to recognize that as a state.”

Even though Tennessee will not have a paid vacation for state employees, Nashville and Chattanooga are among dozens of cities across the country that have announced paid Juneteenth vacations for city employees.

The last new federal holiday was created in 1983, when President Ronald Reagan signed a holiday into law for the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.; It is celebrated on the third Monday of January. The federal MLK birthday holiday was first observed nationally in 1986, but not all states became a state government holiday until 2000.

Some disagreement has arisen as to which Liberation Day states should celebrate. The District of Columbia now has paid holidays on April 15, the district’s Emancipation Day, along with Juneteenth.

In Florida, the Juneteenth state holiday bill died out after some historians argued that the state should honor Florida’s Emancipation Day. On May 20, 1865, a Union general read the Emancipation Proclamation in Tallahassee.

Other states recognize Juneteenth as a day of remembrance or observance, but they are not a legal holiday and do not entitle state employees to paid time off. North Dakota was one of the last to recognize Juneteenth, observing a formal Juneteenth instead of a state legal holiday in June 2021.

Juneteenth Day has been celebrated in California since 2003. A bill to make Juneteenth a legal state holiday is pending in the legislature.

Several governors in states have used their executive power to declare a one-time paid holiday for state employees without a permanent juncture holiday on the books. Since Juneteen this year falls on a Sunday, the holiday is being observed either on the first Friday or on the Monday.

In both Alabama and Mississippi, the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. and the birthday of Confederate General Robert E. Lee are a shared paid state holiday. The Alabama Republican Gov. Ivey declared June 20 as the nineteenth state holiday for 2022, closing all state offices.

West Virginia Republican Governor Jim Justice made Juneteenth a state holiday this year on June 17.

And in North Carolina, Democratic Governor Roy Cooper signed an order on June 6 giving workers in cabinet agencies in the state eight hours of “personal parenting leave” which they can take on June 20 or any other day. .

A Juneteenth holiday bill failed in South Carolina, where Confederate Memorial Day on May 10 is a state legal holiday. A settlement that would have allowed state employees to have a choice of Juneteenth, Confederate Memorial Day or any other day with pay did not leave the committee in this session.

“Junethon is a very important day, especially in South Carolina, because this is the state that started the Civil War, fired on Fort Sumner and first tore the state apart,” said State Sen. Darrell Jackson, a Democrat who sponsored the bill. did, said in an interview.

“There are people like me who don’t feel comfortable celebrating Confederate Memorial Day. How can I?” Said Jackson, who traces his family back to five generations, including three generations of slaves.

“I am going to re-introduce the bill at the beginning of the next session”, he said, adding that he hopes it will have a better chance when it is not an election year and legislators who may be reluctant to express opinion. They would feel free to do so. ,


Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: