Juneteenth. On June 19, 1865, more than two years after the effective date of the Emancipation Proclamation, people in Galveston, Texas finally learned that the Civil War had ended and enslaved people had been freed. June 19 has subsequently been celebrated as Juneteenth or Emancipation Day to commemorate the abolishment of slavery and recognize the contributions of Black/African Americans to society. Forty-six states recognize Juneteenth as either a holiday or day of observance. In 2007 the Legislature designated Juneteenth a legislatively recognized day as a day of remembrance for when slaves learned of their freedom.
State Holidays. Washington recognizes 10 specific days as state legal holidays: New Year's Day; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; President's Day; Memorial Day; Independence Day; Labor Day; Veterans' Day; Thanksgiving Day; Native American Heritage Day; and Christmas Day. Another 17 specific days are recognized by the Legislature, but they are not considered legal holidays. Some of those days commemorate specific events, such as Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day. Other days commemorate groups of people, such as Korean-American Day, or certain ideas, such as Human Trafficking Awareness Day and Public Lands Day.
June 19, known as Juneteenth, is designated a state legal holiday.
(In support) Making Juneteenth a paid state holiday is a step toward racial reconciliation. It is not enough to just recognize and celebrate the day; making Juneteenth an official state holiday will bring awareness and consciousness to a crucial day in history. In spite of the Emancipation Proclamation, many people were not eager to get the message of abolition to all the slaves in confederate states. The images of the confederate flag being waved in the halls of the United States Capitol last week are a poignant reminder that the ideology of the confederacy has created the inequity that is still experienced today. This bill is necessary to further educate communities about the history of slavery and its devastating impacts. Cost to the state was a concern last session, and others are concerned that this bill does not actually address inequity in the state. True, making Juneteenth a paid holiday will not make racial inequity go away and it will not end racism. But it will send a message that the State of Washington recognizes that slavery was an atrocity, and it ensures that we remember when Black slaves were released from bondage. This bill is therefore not about a holiday, but it is about taking a step toward healing and reconciliation. The social uprisings of the past year have demanded such action.