Centuries after slavery was abolished, Juneteenth, celebrated annually on June 19, may soon become an official holiday recognized in New York.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday, June 17, that he signed an Executive Order recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday for state employees “in recognition of the official emancipation of African Americans throughout the United States.”
Cuomo said he hopes to sign legislature moving forward that will make Juneteenth an official state holiday as soon as next year.
“It’s a day we should all reflect upon, and it’s especially relevant in this current day in history,” Cuomo said. “And I plan to propose legislation next year to make it a state holiday.
“Although slavery ended over 150 years ago, there has still been rampant, systemic discrimination and injustice in this state and this nation, and we have been working to enact real reforms to address these inequalities.”
Cuomo said that making June 19 - the unofficial date in 1865 that slavery ended in the United States - an official state holiday was a long time coming.
“You live and you learn … society progresses, changes, evolves, hopefully for the better," he said. "I think this is a period we could see monumental change, and I want to be a force for change, and I want to help synergize the moment.
“I don’t think (Juneteenth) has been recognized for the importance it denotes, and that’s why I’m proposing legislation to make it an official holiday next year,” Cuomo continued, noting that he was exercising as much of his political power to celebrate the “holiday.”
“I’m doing what I can this year by issuing the Executive Order to make it a state holiday for state employees,” he said. “Next year, we would like to pass a law to that effect, that would be the first step for this state, and maybe a first step nationwide.”
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