Oregon State Senate votes to recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday

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Oregon lawmakers voted unanimously Tuesday to recognize Juneteenth, a day recognizing the Emancipation Proclamation, as a state holiday every June 19, starting in 2022. 

The holiday commemorates June 19, 1865, the day enslaved people in Galveston, Texas were told President Abraham Lincoln had freed people held in bondage in rebel states two years earlier. The passage of the bill, introduced by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown earlier this year, falls on the same day as the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, when hundreds of Black residents of Tulsa, Oklahoma were attacked or killed by a white mob. 

“With House Bill 2168, we can learn from another time. We can change the future now, in real time. We can work towards equality – even without a declaration or official holiday. We must. Celebrating Juneteenth will help each of us remember all that we can and must do to ensure a more just future,” Senator Lew Frederick, D-N/NE Portland, said in/ a statement released by Oregon Senate Democrats.

After House Bill 2168 passed in the Senate Tuesday, the bill went back to the House for consideration of Senate amendments. Gov. Kate Brown is expected to sign it into law.

“I know this is a small, yet important step. I encourage all Oregonians to join me in observing Juneteenth by getting educated on systemic racism in this country and getting involved in the fight for racial justice," Brown said in a news release last year about the introduction of the bill to make the day a holiday. 

Where else is Juneteenth recognized?
Juneteenth started in Galveston, Texas, but it is now recognized, in some form, as a day of observance in every state except Hawaii, North Dakota and South Dakota, according to a report compiled by the Congressional Research Service.

The Texas state legislature was the first to officially recognize Juneteenth in 1980. Florida was next in 1991, followed by Oklahoma in '94 and Minnesota in '96. It would take several years until another state — Delaware — recognized the day in 2000.

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Oregon recognized Juneteenth in 2001, but June 19 will become a legal holiday in the state next year.

Each state acknowledges Juneteenth in its own way, but the holiday has been celebrated throughout the country long before 1980.

This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the annual Juneteenth Day celebration in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, one of the longest-running in the country.

Residents of East New York and Brownsville, New York have celebrated Juneteenth with an annual festival for over a decade, and Juneteenth is commemorated by an annual parade and festival in Philadelphia.

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John Spacey

John Spacey