President Joe Biden made Juneteenth a federal holiday last year and the Frankfort City Commission followed suit, voting unanimously last June to make the holiday, which marks the emancipation of African American slaves in the U.S., a paid day off for all city staff. But not every government entity — such as the county and state — is on board. It’s time to change that.
During the Juneteenth festivities hosted by Focus On Race Relations-Frankfort (FORR) held last Saturday at Lakeview Park Gov. Andy Beshear stressed that he is hoping the state will recognize the holiday starting next year.
Juneteenth is held to commemorate June 19, 1865, when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and ensure that enslaved people were freed – 2½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Juneteenth honors the end of slavery in the U.S. and is widely considered to be the longest-running African American holiday in the country.
“It’s a day where we stand united in acknowledging the end of our nation's great injustice, though it took about six more months for it to happen in Kentucky,” Beshear said. “But, it’s still a day we celebrate the strength and courage of African Americans and the contributions they have made to our country and to this commonwealth.
“Today is also a day that we acknowledge that we have a long way to go to true equality not just here in the commonwealth, but all over the country.”
Texas became the first state to designate June 19 as a holiday in 1980. In the time since, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have recognized the day, but only 24 states and Washington, D.C., have made it a public paid holiday.
In June 2021, Judge-Executive Huston Wells issued a proclamation making the date National Freedom Day, but no action or vote has yet been taken by the Franklin County Fiscal Court to make Juneteenth an official holiday when employees have the day off.
We believe that June 19, 1865, was a significant day for African-Americans and the history of our country and should be recognized as a holiday locally in the same way we mark another independence day — July 4.
We encourage our readers to reach out to state legislators and local elected county leaders to ensure that in 2023 and every year after Juneteenth is a day we honor and reflect on the significant roles that African Americans have played in the history of our country, state, county and city.