Bill introduced by Texas congresswoman to make Juneteenth a national holiday

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(Last Updated On: June 20, 2020)

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Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee introduced a bill to make Juneteenth a national holiday, a day prior to the 155th anniversary of the holiday. Currently the day is celebrated in 47 of 50 U.S. states, including the District of Columbia.

Lee introduced the bill on the heels of worldwide unrest over racial equality and police brutatlity targeting African Americans ignited by the death of George Floyd, a Houston man who lost his life after a Minnesota officer kneeled on his neck for nearly 9 minutes (8 min., 46 seconds) during a routine arrest for reportedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill.

Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee
Photo credit: Congressional Pictorial Directory, 109th.

Juneteenth signifies the date (June 19, 1865) that slaves in Texas learned that they were free, over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed on Jan. 1, 1863. Union soldier Gordon Granger brought word to Galveston, Texas via a federal order announcing that slaves in Texas were free.

In the Houston/Galveston area, the Galveston Historical Foundation hosted the 41st Annual Al Edwards’ Juneteenth Celebration which included a reading of the federal order that freed Texas slaves in 1865. Former Texas state representative Al Edwards was responsible for legislation that made Junetenth a state holiday in Texas. In Houston, the Emancipation Park Conservancy hosted a series of online educational celebrations in honor of Juneteenth; the Houston Buffalo Soldiers Museum and the Houston Museum of African American Culture celebrated re-openings to commemorate the day; and the Missouri City Juneteenth Celebration Foundation held a drive-by mask/glove giveaway in lieu of traditional festivities to protect the community.

Many celebrations were held virtually across the country from concerts to art shows to stage plays in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to limit the impact of comunity spread.

Bill introduced by Texas congresswoman to make Juneteenth a national holiday