Juneteenth holiday could be statewide


Originally published in Observer

Juneteenth is now a holiday in the city of Jamestown.

State legislators want to extend the celebration statewide.

Legislation (A.10628/S.8598) has been introduced in both houses of the state Legislature to create a state holiday on June 19 each year to commemorate Juneteenth. Juneteenth celebrations date back to June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas, to declare the news that the war had ended and that those enslaved were now free two years after the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln, according to the National Registry for Juneteenth Organizations and Supporters.

The state Senate legislation is sponsored by Democrat Kevin Parker and co-sponsored by Democrats Robert Jackson, Brian Benjamin, Alessandra Biaggi, Brad Hoylman and Luis Sepulveda. The Assembly legislation is sponsored by Democrat Alicia Hyndman and co-sponsored by Democrat Aravella Simotas and Nick Perry. The Assembly legislation has been referred to the Governmental Operations Committee while the Senate bill has been referred to the Rules Committee.

“As a state, it is our duty to recognize and celebrate June 19th not only by adopting resolutions, but by pausing statewide to acknowledge and reflect on a day that changed the trajectory of the lives of most Blacks and African Americans being held as slaves in U.S.,” Hyndman wrote in her legislative justification. “On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger and federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and enforce the Emancipation Proclamation marking the effective end of slavery in the United States. According to the United States Census Bureau, African Americans and Blacks make up about 17.6% of New Yorkers. It is imperative to recognize the integral role Blacks and African Americans play in the development of this state and it is further crucial for us as a state to not only celebrate but to take the time to educate ourselves about the history of the Black and African American community.”

The designation would add Juneteenth to the list of the state’s legal holidays, which current include Dr. Martni Luther King Jr. Day, Lincoln’s Birthday, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.