By John O'Brien,
May 3, 2022
Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed legislation yesterday making Juneteenth an official state holiday. Colorado is the 11th state (including the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia) to make Juneteenth an official holiday.
The timing helps to dramatize the centennial celebration of the Lincoln Memorial on May 22. The Colorado bill was championed by three members of state’s Black legislative caucus. “Making Juneteenth a state holiday means Colorado would not only recognize that Black people are free, but that all people are free,” said state Sen. James Coleman, a Denver Democrat and a lead sponsor of the Juneteenth bill. “It is a recognition that we not only desire for some Coloradans to prosper, but for all to prosper, and for all Coloradans, regardless of race or background, to earn a living wage, have an affordable place to call home, and get the equitable access to health care and education people need to move forward and thrive.”
Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. It is also known as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, and Black Independence Day. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX, and announced the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery. Although the Emancipation Proclamation came 2½ years earlier on January 1, 1863, many enslavers continued to hold enslaved Black people captive after the announcement, so Juneteenth became a symbolic date representing African American freedom.
President Joe Biden signed the law on June 17, 2021, that made Juneteenth an official national holiday. Just because it is a national holiday does not mean it is a state holiday for states which have not passed a similar law. Of course, now that it is a national holiday, state legislatures may face additional pressure to make Juneteenth a state holiday, as well. Texas was the first state to declare a holiday in 1980. Only South Dakota has taken no action that would recognize the day in any way.
Lincoln Group member Carl Adams is a member of the National Juneteenth Observation Foundation. Research for his book, Nance: Trials of the First Slave Freed by A. Lincoln, revealed that Nance's son, Pvt. William H. Costley served in the 29th Rgt USCT that helped deliver the Texas proclamation. Read more about Juneteenth and Carl's research at njof.org.