Trenton – Acting to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States and to honor the history and contributions of Black Americans, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Sandra Cunningham announced today the introduction of legislation making Juneteenth an official state holiday. Dating back to June 19, 1865, Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the country.
“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.”
The legislation establishing the state holiday won’t be enacted in time for Juneteenth this year, but the residents of New Jersey can dedicate themselves to the spirit and purpose of the bill, Senator Sweeney and Senator Cunningham said.
“Over 150 years after the first celebration of Juneteenth, I am glad this holiday is finally getting the recognition it deserves,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “By formally recognizing Juneteenth as a state holiday we can inspire more people to learn about its meaning and help them gain a better understanding of just how slow progress has been for the Black community.”
It was on June 19, 1865 when enslaved people in Texas were 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.