Juneteenth Becomes An Official Delaware State Holiday

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Juneteenth is now an official state holiday in Delaware.

Governor John Carney signed legislation Wednesday (House Bill 119) to establish June 19th as a legal holiday. It commemorates when the last enslaved African Americans were informed that they were free people on June 19th, 1865.

“I believe the least that each of us can do is commit to learning the lessons of our shared history – the good and the bad. That’s why this legislation is so important,” Carney said. “Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans in the United States. This holiday will offer an opportunity to encourage open dialogue, and to recommit to treating one another with more respect. I want to thank Representative Dorsey Walker and Ms. Opal Lee for their tremendous leadership on this issue.” 

President Biden has already declared Juneteenth a federal holiday. Present for the presidential action and Governor Carney’s action was Ms. Opal Lee, a civil rights leader who is widely regarded as the Grandmother of Juneteenth. At age 89, five years ago, she walked from her home in Texas to Washington to advocate for it becoming a national holiday.

“We are not that far removed from an era in which Americans owned other people as property. My great-grandparents were born slaves, and their struggle to achieve freedom, equality and opportunity has been passed down through my family. This story is the same for so many Black families,” Representative Sherry Dorsey Walker, D-Wilmington said. “By placing Juneteenth on the same level as other holidays such as Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we shall be showing the significance of this day and what it means to Black people across our state and nation. Having Ms. Opal Lee, the Grandmother of Juneteenth, present for this historic occasion at the Congo Legacy Center made today a truly special moment in Delaware.” 

House Bill 119 developed out of the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus Justice for All Agenda unveiled in June 2020 following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody and in response to a nationwide movement for racial justice and police reform.

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