Local Pols Laud Juneteenth Becoming National Holiday

Emancipation Day celebration, June 19, 1900 held in “East Woods” on East 24th Street in Austin. Credit: Austin History Center.

Local and state pols lauded President Joe Biden in signing into law yesterday making June 19, known as Juneteenth, a federal holiday.

Juneteenth is the day when Black Texans were the last Blacks freed from the bondage of American slavery some two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863.

The legislation Biden signed came after the House approved the measure, 415-14, and the Senate approved it unanimously.  

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, noting Juneteenth was declared an official holiday in New York State last year, said the newly minted federal holiday reminds the country of the injustices Black communities continue to face, while also serving as an opportunity to celebrate those who fought tirelessly for abolition throughout our history. 

“May we all be inspired by those heroes who fought and sacrificed, so we can continue to make change in favor of a more fair and equal society,” said Cuomo. 

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said in a tweet yesterday that he was thinking of ancestors 156 years ago in Galveston and all who’ve led the fight since. “We still have so much work to do to create a society rooted in true equality, but today marks a meaningful step in that march towards justice,” he said. 

“By making Juneteenth a federal holiday, we are recognizing the sins of the past, grappling with them, teaching them, and learning from them as we work towards a more perfect union. It’ll be the only federal holiday that recognizes the terrible legacy of slavery as well as the noble truth that none of us are free until we are all free,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

City Council Member Farah Louis (D-Brooklyn) said making Juneteenth a national holiday was long overdue and it’s now an opportunity to focus on freedom and liberation, unifying the community to uplift and celebrate those that paved the way for us.

“As a daughter of Haitian immigrants and as a Black woman who serves as a leader in elected office, this moment is meaningful for me. Although the history of the Black experience in America is often punctuated by sadness and pain, Juneteenth is a day that will forever represent freedom, resilience, and joy,” said Louis.

U.S. Rep. and Queens County Democratic Party Chair Greg Meeks said he was glad to be at the White House with his colleagues to witness the history of Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday. 

“While we commemorate Black freedom, know that there is still work to be done,” Meeks said in a tweet. 

“Juneteenth is a part of American history, and I’m proud to see it recognized as a national holiday. I’m thinking of Opal Lee, who spent years advocating for this historic moment and today got to see her work through,” said State Attorney General Letitia James in a tweet. 

Mayoral candidate and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams tweeted: “Today just got a whole lot brighter with the establishment of Juneteenth as the nation’s 12th federal holiday. In addition to this being a celebratory occasion, it’s also a definitive marker of recognition of a painful part of American history that should never be forgotten.”