Trenton – Acting to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States and to honor the history and contributions of Black Americans, the Senate today approved a bill that would make Juneteenth an official state holiday. The bill is sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Sandra Cunningham and Senator Joe Cryan.
“Juneteenth marks a day of freedom for Black Americans who suffered the cruelty of slavery and an opportunity to honor the history and contributions of African Americans,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “This takes on greater significance as the entire country is confronting the racism and inequality that is the bitter legacy of slavery. We can use June 19th and the days that follow to undue past harms and renew our commitment to justice and equality for all.”
“It feels especially fitting to be voting on this legislation in the week leading up to the July Fourth holiday. For many Black Americans, the Fourth of July does not hold the same meaning of freedom and independence that it does for other Americans, because Black Americans were not free on July 4, 1776,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “Hopefully, through this legislation, as well as deeper education and a more honest review of our history, more New Jerseyans can realize the significance of Juneteenth as a true day of freedom, even as we continue to work towards ‘justice for all.’”
“This is a way of recognizing the end of slavery in America as an important milestone in the Nation’s history,” said Senator Cryan (D-Union). “A state holiday won’t change everything, but it will provide a platform to increase the understanding of what has happened in the past so that we can learn from it. When we recognize the experiences of history, we are better for it. We can be enriched as a state and more able to move towards equality for everyone.”
It was on June 19, 1865 when enslaved people in Texas were finally told about the Emancipation Proclamation. Since then, Juneteenth has evolved as a date to celebrate the end of slavery, to cultivate an appreciation of African American history and culture, and to address the injustices Black Americans continue to experience.