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Bill would make Juneteenth a state holiday

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 16, 2020

OLYMPIA – State workers would have June 19 as a legal holiday under a bill proposed to commemorate Juneteenth, the day slaves in Texas learned the Civil War was over and they were free.

Rep. Melanie Morgan, D-Parkland, urged the House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee to pass the bill, which would also recognize February as Black History Month.

“It’s a very important day for people in my community. We were in bondage,” said Morgan, who is African American.

Although Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation technically declared all slaves in the Confederate States free in 1863, it wasn’t until more than a month after the war ended that word reached Texas.

“No slave knew they were actually free,” Morgan said.

The last slaves in Galveston found out on June 19, 1865, or Juneteenth.

If the Legislature passes the bill, it would be the 11th legal state holiday. A fiscal note on the potential cost of the extra state holiday is being prepared.

Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, said she was raised in the South and believes it would be important for the state to recognize Juneteenth.

“We should not forget the lessons of that dark place in our history,” Smith said.

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