Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday signed an executive order recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday for state employees and said he will introduce legislation to make it an official New York State holiday next year. Juneteenth marks the end of slavery in the United States in 1865 and is celebrated annually on June 19.
The governor’s announcement comes as demonstrations continue nationwide following the death of George Floyd last month, with protesters demanding action against racial injustice and police brutality. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam proposed making Juneteenth a state holiday this week, and several companies, including Nike, Twitter, Lyft, and the NFL, have made it a paid holiday.
“It is a day that we should all reflect upon,” Cuomo said during a press briefing on Wednesday. “It is a day that is especially relevant in this moment in history.”
State Assembly Member Alicia Hyndman introduced a bill last week to make Juneteenth a public holiday, as a way to “reflect on a day that changed the trajectory of the lives of most Blacks and African Americans being held as slaves in the U.S.,” as the bill reads.
Hyndman wrote on Twitter that Cuomo did not credit her effort when announcing the state holiday. “Isn’t that something? A black woman introduces legislation to commemorate her people’s beginning journey to freedom and the white patriarchy still finds a way to silence those efforts,” Hyndman tweeted on Wednesday.
After President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves on Sept. 22, 1862, it took more than two years for the order to reach the enslaved people of Texas. The first celebration was observed in Texas as “Jubliee Day” on June 19, 1866. Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas in 1980.
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