Briefline

Juneteenth becomes newest state holiday in Colorado

By: - May 3, 2022 4:01 pm

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signs the bill to make Juneteenth a state holiday on May 2, 2022 at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. (Sara Wilson / Colorado Newsline)

Juneteenth is Colorado’s newest state holiday after Gov. Jared Polis signed the designation into law on Monday afternoon.

“Commemorating this holiday has us look at our history, but it’s also a chance to look forward and continue the fight for freedom, for equity and for dignity for everyone. Our state’s diversity is one of our greatest strengths, and this holiday is another step towards fulfilling the promise of a Colorado for all,” Polis said at the signing ceremony at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood.

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Juneteenth marks June 19, 1865, when enslaved Black people in Texas learned of their freedom, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

“The end of slavery on a document is one thing, but the end of slavery in reality was another and deserves celebration,” Polis said.

Juneteenth became a federal holiday last year, but its new designation as a state holiday means students and state workers in Colorado will have the day off.

“When we celebrate Juneteenth, when we celebrate our liberation, it’s not a fight to say ‘We’ve done it,’ but it’s a celebration to say that there’s still so much more that we need to do,” state Rep. Leslie Herod, a Denver Democrat, said.

The bill, sponsored by Herod, Sen. Janet Buckner of Aurora and Sen. James Coleman of Denver, passed on a 62-2 vote in the House and a 31-1 vote in the Senate. States including Texas, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, Washington, Oregon and South Dakota also have a designated state holiday for Juneteenth.

“This means so much to people of color, but this holiday is for everyone. It is for all of us who want to live in peace and live in harmony,” Buckner said.

Colorado WINS, which represents more than 25,000 state employees, first negotiated the recognition of Juneteenth in its contract with the state last year.

“We proposed including Juneteenth as a new state holiday so that employees of every color and creed had a day to celebrate Black joy and Black people’s unique contribution to America. Today I am proud to see that work come to fruition,” Colorado WINS President Skip Miller said. “Recognizing Juneteenth as a state holiday is a great example of how we can celebrate not just Black history, but American history.”

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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.

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