State lawmakers are making a push to make Juneteenth a full public holiday in New York amid a national reckoning surrounding police brutality and systemic racism.
"Juneteenth" — a combination of June and 19th — celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. It is held on June 19, the anniversary of when a Union Army general rode into Texas to take control of the state with federal troops and enforce the Emancipation Proclamation.
Currently, New York observes Juneteenth as a "day of commemoration" as Juneteenth Freedom Day. The measure was first approved in June 2004 and signed into law by Governor George Pataki that year.
Texas was the firs state to adopt Juneteenth as an official holiday and 46 states have some sort of commemoration for the day. Juneteenth festivals are also observed on the local level.
But lawmakers, spurred by protests and demonstrations over policing and racism, have introduced bills to go further and make June 19 a public holiday. That would give Juneteenth the same status as Martin Luther King Jr. Day or Washington's birthday.
"It is imperative to recognize the integral role Blacks and African Americans play in the development of this state and it is further crucial for us as a state to not only celebrate but to take the time to educate ourselves about the history of the Black and African American community," a bill memo for legislation introduced by Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman states.
Lawmakers in Albany this month approved a package of police reform measures such as ending secrecy surrounding police disciplinary records and requiring State Police troopers to wear body cameras. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is signing those measures into law.
There is a similar push on the federal level to make June 19 a federal holiday.