By Bob Katzen
The House 158-0, approved an amendment that would make Juneteenth Independence Day an official state holiday. Juneteenth, derived from the date June 19th, marks the day—June 19, 1865—that enslaved African Americans in Texas finally received word from Union Army General Gordon Granger that they were free, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves. News of, and enforcement of, Lincoln’s proclamation relied on the advancement of union troops which were slow to reach Texas and enforcement had been slow and inconsistent prior to Granger’s announcement in Galveston, Texas.
“This a real important day,” said Rep. Bud Williams (D-Springfield) the sponsor of the amendment. “We filed this in solidarity with [the] Black Lives Matter [movement]. In terms of making this state holiday, it will go a long way in bridging the racial gap between individuals. Certainly, we’ve tried this many, many times. And this is part of Black history. And you can’t talk about the American history without talking about Black history. And most individuals in the commonwealth have no idea what Black history is.”
“Today, we are making a tremendous pivot and truly delivering freedom to the African Americans with this amendment,” said Rep. Chynah Tyler (D-Roxbury). “Although this is the beginning of the road, I’m committed to helping us as a team deliver a more equitable commonwealth for African Americans.”
“Juneteenth celebrates the breaking of the chains of enslavement of Black Americans,” said Rep. Nika Elugardo (D-Jamaica Plain). “It is fitting that this year as the House of Representatives takes on dismantling structural racism in the commonwealth’s institutions, we should vote to declare Juneteenth a state holiday … Together, we are still breaking chains.”
“Juneteenth Independence Day … 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 House Republican Minority Leader Rep. Brad Jones (R-North Reading). “Although Juneteenth has been officially observed in Massachusetts since 2007 with the annual issuance of a proclamation by the governor, 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.”