Bill designating Juneteenth official state holiday in Louisiana headed to governor’s desk

Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A bill designating Juneteenth as a Louisiana state holiday is headed to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk after passing unanimously in both the House and Senate.

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, or Emancipation Day, commemorates the date in 1865 that the last documented illegally detained slaves learned that they were free, roughly two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed into law.

The news came from Union Major General Gordon Granger, who had been given command of the Department of Texas following the end of the Civil War. Upon arriving in Galveston, Granger delivered the news in one of his first official orders.

Gordon Granger, photo taken during American Civil War (Source: Mathew Brady via the United States Library of Congress)

The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection therefore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.

Union Major General Gordon Granger, General Order Number 3 – June 19, 1865

And thus, the last remaining enslaved African Americans in Texas were freed. The 13th amendment formally abolishing slavery was ratified later that same year.

The day has been officially recognized by state statute in Louisiana since 2003 as a special day of observance but, if signed, House Bill 554 will designate the third Saturday each June as legal state holiday alongside the January 8 observance of the Battle of New Orleans, Martin Luther King Day (3rd Monday in January), Robert E. Lee Day (January 19), Confederate Memorial Day (June 3), Huey P. Long Day (August 30), and others. See the full list of Louisiana state days of public rest, legal holidays, and half-holidays here.

While it is observed in some form across the U.S. and most states either recognize Juneteenth as either an official holiday or day of commemoration, it is not a federal holiday. Texas was the first to formally recognize it as a state holiday, in 1980. The Lone Star State, along with Virginia and New York, are the only states that currently observe it as a state paid holiday.

South Dakota remains the lone holdout in legally recognizing Juneteenth in any way.

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, according to Juneteenth.com.

Today Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week, and in some areas a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement and for planning the future. Its growing popularity signifies a level of maturity and dignity in America long over due. In cities across the country, people of all races, nationalities and religions are joining hands to truthfully acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society today. Sensitized to the conditions and experiences of others, only then can we make significant and lasting improvements in our society.

Juneteenth.com

Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to sign the bill in into law.

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