Rep. Melanie Morgan (D-Parkland) called on her fellow legislators to pass legislation to make Juneteenth a legal state holiday. HB 1016 passed on the House floor and received overwhelming bipartisan support with 89 yeas.
On June 19, 1865, two and half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, news finally reached Galveston, Texas, that all enslaved persons were now released from the bondage of slavery. Juneteenth became an unofficial holiday in Black communities, with little participation or awareness by white Americans, even stifled by local officials and businesses. During the Civil Rights Movement, Juneteenth started to become more common and has since been recognized as a ceremonial holiday by states. However, only a handful of states officially recognize Juneteenth as a recurring legal state holiday that provides paid time off for state employees.
“I asked my fellow legislators to pass this bill so that Washington can show the country that we are serious about equity in this state. Recognizing Juneteenth as a legal state holiday is a first step toward racial reconciliation and healing. This bill is more than just about a holiday. It’s about a true recognition and acknowledgement that chattel slavery happened in this country. Without this, then how can we advocate for racial equity? Today, we took a step towards reconciliation and healing by acknowledging black pain and black trauma. African Americans deserve to have their history remembered,” said Rep. Morgan.
“We have so much work to do to address racial inequity, and this is just one of many steps the Legislature will consider. Some have asked me, ‘is this really the right time for this bill?’ and I am saying today that it is past time for us to declare Juneteenth a state holiday,” Morgan continued. “If now is not the right time, when is the right time?”
Rep. Morgan serves as both Deputy Majority Floor Leader and Chair of the Members of Color Caucus (MOCC). The MOCC seeks to remove all barriers of racial discrimination through democratic processes and to provide equity, access, and opportunity for all communities of color, representing one-third of the House Democratic Caucus. Passing the Juneteenth bill is a legislative priority for the MOCC.