What states do not recognize Juneteenth?
The federal US government and almost all US states have legal frameworks that recognize the significance of Juneteenth, however, nationwide progress has slowed.
While many people in the United States of America believe the end of slavery came after President Lincoln’s famous Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, the true end to slavery came a few years later. As 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 continued and where many enslaved people were unaware that they should have been freed.
Juneteenth, June the nineteenth, now commemorates the end of slavery in the US, linked to the day when, after the American Civil War had ended, Union Army General Gordon Granger proclaimed that all slaves in Texas were free on June 19, 1865.
Juneteenth: recognition as a Federal holiday
In 1980, Texas became the first state to adopt a state law recognizing the holiday. On June 17 2021, the US Congress passed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, making 19 June the twelfth federal holiday.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or observance, South Dakota finally getting on board, and at least 18 states have enacted laws to observe the holiday as a paid state holiday. According to the Congressional Research Service, a government body that provides research to inform lawmakers, those 18 are: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington.
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 of Juneteenth law
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 reported that “critical race theory” had “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.”
As Democratic Rep. Anthony Nolan said while arguing on the House floor in favor of making Juneteenth a paid holiday in Connecticut:
“Juneteenth marks the date of major significance in American history. It represents the ways in which freedom for Black people have been delayed.
“And if we delay this, it’s a smack in the face to Black folks.”
Perhaps the rest will follow...