Gov. Tim Walz calls on Legislature to make Juneteenth a state holiday

June 19 marks the annual commemoration of the ending of slavery.
The Juneteenth Memorial in Austin, Texas.

The Juneteenth Memorial in Austin, Texas.

Gov. Tim Walz is urging the Minnesota Legislature to establish Juneteenth as a state holiday.

The governor has made his call as the state marks the annual commemoration of the ending of slavery, which has become all the more poignant in the wake of George Floyd's killing at the hands of Minneapolis police almost a month ago, and the recent 100th anniversary of the lynching of three Black men – Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie – in Duluth.

Minnesota currently recognizes 10 state holidays, with public bodies prohibited from conducting business on these days with the exception of Indigenous Peoples' Day in October.

Juneteenth is marked every June 19, which was the date that the last remaining slaves in the United States were declared free, in the city of Galveston, Texas – two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

Gov. Walz has declared Friday Juneteenth Freedom Day across Minnesota.

"Juneteenth marks our country’s second Independence Day, celebrating freedom and justice and emphasizing education, achievement, and tolerance,” reads Gov. Walz’s proclamation.

"We must do everything in our power to come together to deconstruct generations of systemic racism in our state so that every person in Minnesota – Black, Indigenous, Brown, and White – can be safe and thrive.”

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Legislation is required to declare a state holiday, with Walz calling on the state's lawmakers to "work with the community to draft and advance a bill that he could sign into law."

“It took more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed for news of freedom to reach enslaved African-Americans in Texas,” added Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan. “Juneteenth is both a celebration and a reminder that justice does not come in one action nor is it quick. It is the work we must never stop doing.”

There are similar efforts in Congress to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. On Friday, four senators including Minnesota's Tina Smith announced they will introduce a bill designating June 19 a federal holiday.

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