BOSTON – House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) and State Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn) are supporting a proposal to designate Juneteenth Independence Day as an official state holiday in Massachusetts.
The proposal, which was co-sponsored by both legislators, was adopted unanimously as an amendment to a $1.1 billion supplemental budget approved by the House of Representatives on June 24, passing on a vote of 158-0.
Juneteenth Independence Day traces its origins to June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce the Civil War was over and the state’s slaves were now free, following President Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.
Juneteenth Independence Day has been officially observed in Massachusetts since 2007, but not as a legal holiday. Under current state law, the governor is required to annually “issue a proclamation setting apart the nineteenth of June as Juneteenth Independence Day, to be observed on the Sunday that is closest to June 19th of each year.” The state observance recognizes “the significant contributions individuals of African descent have made to the Commonwealth and to the United States.”
“Juneteenth Independence Day commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, but it also serves as a reminder that we still have a long way to go to address slavery’s enduring legacy of racism and discrimination,” said Representative Jones. “Making it a full legal holiday is a way to further acknowledge the work that still needs to be done to ensure true equality for all Americans.”
“It is simply not enough for us to stand by and hope for a better America – we must take action and further recognize the terrible scourge of slavery on our country,” said Representative Haggerty. “That is why it is so important to formally recognize Juneteenth Independence Day and acknowledge this as a teachable moment. This day will help to remind all of us of the work we have left to do and to raise awareness of the corrosive effect of racism and inequality.”
In addition to designating Juneteenth Independence Day as an official state holiday, the House amendment provides for the holiday to be observed on June 19, regardless of the day of the week it falls on.
The amended supplemental budget, with the Juneteenth Independence Day language, now moves to the Senate for further action.