Beshear makes Juneteenth holiday

Published 5:10 pm Friday, May 24, 2024

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Gov. Andy Beshear declared Juneteenth – a day that commemorates African Americans’ many contributions and long struggle for freedom, justice and equality – as a state Executive Branch holiday to give thanks in the commonwealth.

The Governor signed an executive order declaring that, beginning this year, each June 19 shall be observed in Kentucky as Juneteenth National Day of Freedom.

“Juneteenth is an important day for all Kentuckians to observe and honor the historic and continuing contributions of African Americans in making our commonwealth the place we love and call home,” Gov. Beshear said. “My hope is that everyone embraces the spirit of emancipation and freedom that this day represents as we build a better Kentucky that welcomes everyone.”

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Juneteenth commemorates the day of June 19, 1865, when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger led Union soldiers into Galveston, Texas, bringing news that slavery in the United States had ended by executive decree. And despite it having been issued two and a half years earlier, President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation only then came into force, freeing the enslaved in Western Texas.

Each year, Americans celebrate Juneteenth on June 19 by celebrating and reflecting on the history, journey and culture of African Americans.

In 2021, Juneteenth was made a national holiday by virtue of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. It is the first new holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day became a federal holiday nearly four decades prior. At least 28 states and the District of Columbia currently observe Juneteenth as a holiday.

The Governor’s actions come after the General Assembly did not enact legislation during three previous legislative sessions that would have made Juneteenth a state holiday.