Juneteenth All About America’s Federal Holiday Observed in Some States

Juneteenth is an annual celebration on June 19 that commemorates a pivotal occasion in African American history – the day in 1865 when Union troops marched into Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and inform the surviving slaves that they had been emancipated. According to a report by the non-profit The Pew Charitable Trusts, Texas had 250,000 enslaved individuals.

Only 18 states have passed legislation providing cash for state employees to mark the day as a paid state holiday one year later, reports say. Opponents of measures that would fund the permanent holiday have protested about the costs of providing workers with another paid day off.

Juneteenth honors the events of June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to notify enslaved African Americans of their liberation following the end of the Civil War.

Since the late 1800s, Black Americans have observed the day. Though all 50 states have issued proclamations commemorating Juneteenth, its complete adoption as an American paid holiday has yet to take root.

In Tennessee, Republican Gov. Bill Lee declared the day off for state employees and set aside more than $690,000 in the annual budget to reimburse the overtime fees of any employee who worked on Juneteenth.

The day, known as “Jubilee Day,” “Emancipation Day,” or “Freedom Day,” also requires an awareness that Juneteenth is a day that all Americans should honor, not just Black citizens, according to some.

In 1980, Texas became the first state in the US to make Juneteenth a paid holiday. When President Biden signed the holiday into federal law on June 17, 2021, it was already a paid holiday in eight other states, such as New Jersey, Virginia, Illinois, and Massachusetts were among them.

The Black Lives Matter movement might have pushed Juneteenth into the spotlight, building on a decades-long campaign by activists and leaders to gain recognition for the historic day. Last year, Juneteenth became the United States’ newest federal holiday, the first since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

One year after President Biden declared Juneteenth a federal holiday, more than 30 states have yet to approve money for state employees to take the day off.


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