States across the country are scrambling to close their government offices today (June 18) after President Joe Biden signed legislation establishing Juneteenth as a US federal holiday.
Juneteenth takes place on June 19th, which commemorates the date in 1865 when Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and told slaves of their emancipation. That day came more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Even after Lincoln declared all enslaved people free on paper, the news didn’t travel quickly back then.
Since this federally recognized holiday lands on a Saturday this year, governors across the country announced in quick succession a range of plans for their state offices for today (the closest workday to the new holiday), CNN reports. Many states like Maryland, Nebraska, Missouri, West Virginia and Alabama will give most public employees the day off, but government workers in other states, like California, will have to wait to feel the effect of the new law.
“It is encouraging to see bipartisan efforts to recognize the importance of Juneteenth,” a spokesperson for California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said in a statement. “The Governor issues a proclamation each year to celebrate this important day. At the state level, establishing a holiday usually requires legislation and collective bargaining.”
Likewise in Washington, DC, “many District employees will continue serving to maintain essential District operations.” This includes vaccination sites, the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Parks and Recreation. Although the District’s schools will be closed, high school graduation ceremonies will commence.
Families should check with their schools about the impact of scheduled events for Friday. High School graduation ceremonies scheduled for Saturday, June 19 will be held as planned.— DC Public Schools (@dcpublicschools) June 17, 2021
On the federal level, the US Office of Personnel Management announced in a memo that most federal employees would have Friday off, saying, “Agencies should direct such employees to not report to work on Friday — unless the agency determines that their services are required. If employees are required to work during qualifying holiday hours, they will earn holiday premium pay.”
Juneteenth is the first holiday to be approved since Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which was established in 1983.