On Friday, Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota called on the state legislature to establish Juneteenth as a state holiday. And Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said that starting next year, Juneteenth would be an official city and school holiday.
Adding to the momentum, John Cornyn, the senior Republican senator from Texas, where Juneteenth originated, announced on Thursday that he planned to introduce a bill to make the day a federal holiday. Four Democrats in the Senate — Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Tina Smith of Minnesota and Ed Markey of Massachusetts — announced a similar proposal on Thursday.
The developments are the latest example of the impact of national protests over the police killings of George Floyd and other black Americans. The consequences have quickly spread across society, roiling institutions, prompting legal reforms and now formalizing Juneteenth as a holiday recognized by a diverse swath of the country.
“This is unprecedented,” said Albert S. Broussard, a professor of history at the Texas A&M University, who said his own employer was allowing nonessential employees to take Juneteenth as a paid holiday. “This moment in time has motivated people to react differently, to behave differently about this, and that’s a good thing.”
On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, and read the announcement that all enslaved African-Americans were free, sharing the news with the remote Confederate state about two months after the South surrendered in the Civil War and more than two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
Black Texans began celebrating the holiday in 1866, though in recent decades has it gained prominence around the country. Typically celebrated with gatherings, parades, prayer, and foods like barbecue and strawberry soda, the holiday — a combination of its month and date — is widely considered African-Americans’ Independence Day.
“When they celebrated July 4, Independence Day, blacks weren’t free or independent,” said Donald Payton, a historian in Dallas who has studied and long celebrated the holiday. He said he was glad to see the holiday gaining momentum, but said corporations should do more than make what he described as surface-level changes.
Credit: Source link