One hundred fifty-six years after the first Juneteenth celebration took place, city officials in the city of Galveston, Texas have moved to recognize June 19 as a citywide holiday. The initiative to recognize Juneteenth as a citywide holiday was first introduced by former history teacher and current city councilman William Schuster. Soon thereafter, Galveston Mayor Craig Brown jumped in to support to the initiative and said that it was long overdue. Moving forward, Juneteenth will be recognized as a "non-emergency" holiday, which means city offices will be closed and government employees will get a paid day off.
Galveston is widely recognized as the birthplace of Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the day that Black slaves in Texas were informed that they were free. When the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by former President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, a number of states, including Texas, refused to acknowledge it. As a result, enslaved people in cities like Galveston were not aware of the Emancipation Proclamation until June 19, 1865.
More than 150 years after the first Juneteenth took place, several major cities, 45 states and the District of Columbia have moved to recognize June 19 as a holiday. In recent years, there has also been a push to recognize Juneteenth as a federal holiday. With the help of activist Opal Lee, Senator Ed Markey re-introduced a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday back in March.
"For too long, we have tried to whitewash our nation's history instead of confronting the uncomfortable and painful truth," Markey said after re-introducing the bill.
"This legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday is but one step we can take to begin to right the wrongs of the past and ensure equal justice in the future."
Despite the renewed push to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, the bill has stalled in Congress yet again. There is no word as to when it would hit the Senate floor for an official vote.
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