Gov. Tim Walz signed legislation Friday making Juneteenth a state holiday, enabling Minnesota to join 24 other states and the District of Columbia that recognize it as such. With the governor’s signature, it means state government offices will be closed and state workers get a paid day off.
“Juneteenth is an important opportunity for communities across the state and nation to celebrate freedom, recognize the history and contributions of Black Americans, and recommit to building a more just and equitable society for everyone,” Gov. Walz said at a ceremony at the Capitol flanked by legislative leaders and the bill authors, noting that creating it as a state holiday was long overdue.
Juneteenth is celebrated annually around the country on the 19th of June to mark the day the last of those still enslaved in confederate territory received the message that chattel slavery in the United States had come to an end.
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, announcing, “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious areas “are, and henceforward shall be free.”
However, it was not until June 19, 1865 when Maj. Gen. Gordon led 2,000 Union troops into Galveston Bay, Texas and issued General Order No. 3 and announced all 250,000 enslaved Black people in the state were free by executive decree.
The day came to be known as Juneteenth. The official General Order No. 3 is preserved at the National Archives building in Washington, DC.
Rep. Ruth Richardson of Mendota Heights was the bill’s sponsor in the Minnesota House while Sen. Bobby Joe Champion of Minneapolis sponsored the companion bill on the Senate side. Sen. Champion is the state Senate’s first Black president. Both are Democrats and were present to witness the signing.
It’s about freedom; it’s about liberty, but it’s also about an imperfect freedom because slavery legally exists in this nation,” Rep. Richardson told a House committee last month according to Session Daily. “To be clear Black enslaved men contributed to the independence of our nation and fought in the Revolutionary War.
“… The celebration of Juneteenth provides space for all of us to reflect on a more inclusive definition of freedom. The end of chattel slavery in this country is an important milestone worthy of recognition and worthy of celebration. And it’s a step in the right direction of truly living up to the promise of this nation that all are created equal.”
Gov. Walz also on Friday ceremonially signed the CROWN Act. He had officially signed it earlier in the week. The bill passed both houses last week and prohibits hair-based discrimination towards individuals seeking employment, housing, and other public assistance programs and services.