What states do not recognize Juneteenth?
The federal government and almost all US states and have legal frameworks that recognize the significance of Juneteenth, however, some education proposals aim to undermine these laws.
Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. While many in the United States believe the end of slavery came after President Lincoln’s famous 1862, Emancipation Proclamation, the true end to slavery came a few years later. Since the country was at war when the Proclamation was made, many rebel states ignored it.
Many slave owners had moved their slaves to Texas, where the practice went unenforced and where many enslaved people were unaware that they had been freed. The day commemorates when after the American Civil War ended, Union Army General Gordon Granger proclaimed that all slaves in Texas were free on June 19, 1865.
In 1980, Texas became the first state to adopt a state law recognizing the holiday. According to the Congressional Research Service, a government body that provides research to inform lawmakers, South Dakota is the only US state that does not have a law to mark the celebration of Juneteenth. The most recent states to add a law recognizing the holiday are Hawaii and North Dakota.
Recognition as a Federal holiday
This year, the US Congress passed Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, making 19 June the twelfth federal holiday. With this statute, federal employees will have the day off and private businesses and organizations can offer Juneteenth as a paid holiday to their employees. Already, under state law in Texas, New York, Virginia, and Washington, Juneteenth is an official holiday where state employees are given the day off.
Controversies occurring as the law was passed
As the House and Senate took up the bill that made Juneteenth a national holiday, racial justice activists sounded the alarm over the increase in states banning “critical race theory” from the public school curriculum. Originally a term used in academic circles, the New York Times reports that “critical race theory” has “recently been repurposed by Republican politicians and activists as a catchall term for discussions of race.”
Republican lawmakers across the US, representing nearly half of all states, have called to eliminate “critical race theory” from the public educational curriculum; these laws would apply to concepts ranging from white privilege to racial equity.
More than ninety organizations including, The American Association of University Professors, the American Historical Association, the Association of American Colleges & Universities, and PEN America have signed a joint statement voicing their concern and opposition to these laws. The statement outlines numerous reasons for their opposition starting with how these laws “suppress teaching and learning about the role of racism in the history of the United States.”
The groups acknowledge that learning this history may make some students feel uncomfortable, but that discomfort can serve as an important part of the learning process as it helps to build empathy and understanding of a circumstance outside of their own. The group argues that providing an accurate view of history and the impacts it has on modern society help to foster “community participation and robust civic engagement.”
Other individuals including journalists have stated that these efforts undermine the move at the federal level saying that it proves that it is purely symbolic. Astead W. Herndon, the reporter for the New York Times, argued that these laws will make it harder to teachers to educate their students on the importance of Juneteenth. Activists and journalists argue that a full historical picture of the history of the US is necessary to develop a public with a social conscious, but for GOP members who deny the existence of systematic racism, these laws help to silence discussions on the topic by students.
Lawmakers who have proposed these laws have been rather silent on the impact they could have on Black children, for whom a right of passage into adulthood usually includes “the race talk.” The talk typically involves parents educating their children on how to act in the presence of law enforcement, and how to avoid confrontation with people who could pose a threat to their personal safety over their own internalized racism and fear. Teaching children about racism and history helps to inform students who have the privilege to not encounter it. While it may make children uncomfortable, that feeling is temporary, for Black children, and their parents, who live in fear for their safety, it is permanent