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Our Opinion: Jefferson City Council should add Juneteenth holiday

May 10, 2022 at 3:55 a.m.

Unfortunately, Juneteenth has long been a "Black" holiday, and not much of a "white holiday." It should be a holiday celebrated as universally as Thanksgiving.

Fortunately, our country is moving toward that goal.

In June 2021, President Joe Biden signed legislation that establishes Juneteenth as a federal holiday after the measure made it through Congress. The effort to get it approved followed racial justice uprisings that occurred across the country. Juneteenth became the first new federal holiday since the addition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

Gov. Mike Parson announced soon after the federal bill signing all state offices would be closed in observance of the United States' newest federal holiday, as we recently reported. Missouri made June 19 a state holiday, known as Emancipation Day, in 2003.

Cole County government also recognizes the Juneteenth holiday as does Lincoln University.

City staff had asked the Jefferson City Council to add Juneteenth as a paid holiday for employees during budget discussions last year. We hope the council takes the lead from these other governmental bodies and adds Juneteenth as an official holiday.

Juneteenth essentially celebrates the Emancipation Proclamation, which ended slavery. Specifically, it commemorates when Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce to enslaved African-Americans they were free and the Civil War ended. President Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation 2½ years earlier, but it didn't take effect as the Civil War raged on.

Jefferson City has 10 holidays plus a floating holiday that may be approved by the City Council. That's compared to 13 paid holidays for the state and Lincoln University. Cole County has 12.

The city's cost for adding Juneteenth as a holiday would be about $82,000, a drop in the bucket of the overall budget.

We urge the council to add Juneteenth as a city holiday. At this time when our country seems more divided than ever, we should unite over the freedom our country affords for everyone. The holiday reinforces our Declaration of Independence, that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

News Tribune

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