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Activists Urging for Juneteenth to Become a State Holiday

Last year, June 19 became Juneteenth National Independence Day, a United States federal holiday. The legislation gained traction after the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the bill passed the House 415-14, making it the 11th federal holiday.

Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved individuals in the US and is also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day. While many Black families have celebrated the day for years, the Black Lives Matter movement generated great recognition for the holiday and has motivated many non-Black Americans to partake in celebrations. Juneteenth is the first federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

Although Juneteenth has gained federal recognition and support, many Black activists and organizers have noted that the holiday has not acquired local contributions from most states. According to the Pew Research Center, 26 states have yet to add Juneteenth as a state holiday, including 7 former confederate states.

In the states where Juneteenth is a legal state holiday, workers have a paid day off and governmental buildings are closed. In 2023, Connecticut will be the next state to recognize Juneteenth as such. Governor Ned Lamont stated, “Juneteenth marks an important day in our nation that for far too long has gone underrecognized and has not been truly appreciated to the extent that it should be as a major part of United States history.” He said, “While some elected officials in other states are working to block efforts to teach the true history of our nation, it fills me with pride that here in Connecticut we are embracing that history and working to educate everyone about how our nation was built and the significance of what this day means.”

Black activists are urging for Juneteenth to be equal to the July fourth as Juneteenth commemorates the freeing of the people and July fourth commemorates the freeing of land. Although all 50 states observe Juneteenth, the lack of state government support highlights the resistance to racial equality and further promotes injustices, as recognized by many activists.

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