On May 13, Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill declaring Juneteenth as a legal state paid holiday, starting in 2022. The day will now join the group of paid holidays in Washington state including Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day and more.
Juneteenth (June 19), also known as Emancipation Day, marks the day when Union Soldiers had informed the last of the enslaved African Americans that they were free in 1865, two years after the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation. “The holiday is a celebration of the resiliency and spirit of Black Americans, reminding us of our country’s past moral failures, alongside a persistent hope for a more equitable future,” Inslee stated at the signing of House Bill 1016.
The bill passed the Washington State House in February and the Senate in April and was finally signed in May. After the governor signs the bill into law, it would take a minimum of 90 days for the measure to take effect.
Juneteenth was recognized as a day of remembrance in Washington state in 2007, but this bill will enforce the legalization of a paid day off. Washington is one of the 48 states who recognize Juneteenth as a holiday, and there has been an emerging appeal to spread the designation of the day to other states as a national holiday, especially following the occurrence of Black Lives Matter protests. Hawaii and South Dakota are the only states who don’t currently have some sort of official recognition of the day.
“We cannot end systemic racism without addressing the role it has played in our nation’s history. Juneteenth is a day of hope, and a reminder of our constant struggle towards equity and justice,” Inslee commemorates in a tweet on May 13.