According to reports, Governor Kay Ivey sent out a memo declaring that Juneteenth will be a holiday for state workers in Alabama. The memo was circulated earlier this month, decreeing that offices will be closed on Monday, June 20th as Juneteenth – which is normally celebrated on June 19th. This year, that date falls on a Sunday.
The news does come with one striking condition. The decree allowing state workers to have the day off is only in effect this year at the moment. A spokesperson for Ivey, Gina Maiola, said that the decision to make Juneteenth a permanent state holiday will be up to the state legislature. Juneteenth is the only holiday that doesn’t have permanent status in the state. Alabama does have three holidays that are dedicated to celebrating Confederate history. In January, Robert E. Lee Day is jointly commemorated with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. The state also celebrates Confederate Memorial Day in April and Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president. Numerous attempts have been made to eliminate those holidays, to no avail.
Juneteenth came about as a commemoration of June 19th, 1865 when Union Army soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas to inform those enslaved Black people that they were free. This was two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. President Joe Biden made the day a federal holiday through legislation that took place last year. A couple of cities in Alabama did make the decision to recognize Juneteenth last year and give employees another paid holiday. Prattville City Councilman Marcus Jackson, the only Black member of that legislative body, applauded the move. “I’m very appreciative that the City Council passed the resolution unanimously.
Having the paid holiday is important because it marks a day when a large group of Americans learned about their freedom. It is our shared history, as Americans. We have made great progress since then. But we still have to work on our efforts to ensure diversity and inclusivity. Having this paid holiday can help keep a spotlight on those efforts.”