Juneteenth – the June 19th date which marks the end of US slavery – will become an official holiday in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced.
The move comes as millions of Americans plan to commemorate, with marches and personal observances, the 1865 date when the last US slaves were freed.
Several states already observe Juneteenth as an official holiday and there is a push to declare it a national holiday.
The date’s significance has grown this year amid Black Lives Matter protests.
Mayor de Blasio said in a press conference on June 19 that the date would be marked as an official city holiday beginning in 2021, and will also be a public school holiday.
He said: “We’ll work with all the unions to work through the plan, give this day the importance and recognition it deserves.
“Every city worker, every student will have the opportunity to reflect the meaning of our history and the truth.”
Earlier this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an order making Juneteenth – also known as Emancipation Day and Freedom Day – a paid holiday for state workers.
Andrew Cuomo said he would introduce legislation to make the day a holiday for all New Yorkers by 2021.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam also promised to make Juneteenth a holiday by 2021 in the former capitol of the Confederacy which rebelled against the US during the Civil War for the legal right to enslave black people.
In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf has also signed an order making Juneteenth a holiday for state workers.
He said in the statement: “In recent weeks, people around the nation have joined together to demand an end to systemic racism and oppression of African Americans.”
“Freedom for all is not fully realized until every person is truly free. This Juneteenth we have an opportunity to unite against injustice and create lasting change,” he continued.
Texas was the first state to declare Juneteenth a holiday in 1980. Now all but four US states observe or recognize the date in some form.
This year, the date has become particularly prominent in the public consciousness amid a wave of protests over racial inequality following the deaths of several unarmed African Americans. Juneteenth rallies are planned in Washington DC and across the US.
On June 19, 1865 enslaved people in Galveston, Texas received the news that slavery had been abolished by President Abraham Lincoln two years earlier.
According to historians, the news took so long to reach slaves in Texas in part due to fighting that continued even after the surrender of the Confederacy that ended the Civil War.
Corporate America is also treating Juneteenth with more reverence than in previous years, with employees from Nike, Uber, and Twitter being given a paid day off.
Google has asked employees to cancel non-urgent meetings and instead “create space for learning and reflection”.
Amazon told employees to “take some time to reflect, learn and support each other”.
In Washington, the most senior Republican in the Senate said on June 18 that he would introduce a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
Four Democrats have also announced a similar proposal.
In the House of Representatives, the Texas congresswoman who has been pushing for a national holiday for two decades, told CBS that the chances of a holiday becoming a reality are growing.
HOUSTON, TEXAS. A $100 million racial discrimination lawsuit has been filed in a Houston, Texas state district court on behalf of hundreds of Black present and former employees of the Houston Community College (“HCC”). The suit was intentionally filed Friday, June 19, 2020– “Juneteenth—the anniversary date that Black slaves in Texas learned they had been freed from slavery two years earlier by President Abraham Lincoln. The lawsuit details a damning list of allegations about what has happened at Houston Community College under the leadership of Chancellor Cesar Maldonado and the Human Resources Director, Ms. Janet May. According to the lawsuit, Maldonado accepted his position in 2014 with a Hispanic “preferential treatment” agenda. The suit contains an actual email chain created shortly after Maldonado’s appointment, which states “Now we [Hispanics] are going to receive preferential treatment.” The suit alleges that since Maldonado’s arrival 90% of the long-time Black professionals at HCC have either been terminated or demoted, while there has been a 50% increase in Hispanic hires and promotions. Shockingly, the suit claims, while 90% of tenured and experienced Black employees have been displaced only 10% of similarly tenured White employees have been displaced.
The lawsuit continues with a disturbing list of tactics used by Cesar Maldonado and Janet May to get rid of Black employees. These tactics include, among many others:
Telling a Black male that a White woman’s word was more truthful than his word;
When a White person complains, believing them, but if a Black person complains doubting them unless corroborated;
“Padding” Black employee personnel files with false complaints to be used later as pretexts for firing them;
When Black employees are accused of harassment, believing the complainant – but if the complaint is made by a Black person, doubting them until HHC can corroborate;
Using the term “transformation” as a cover for getting rid of Black employees; and
Forcing Black employees to take leaves of absence without cause to later use as grounds to terminate the Black employee.
If these allegations are proven in court, HCC is in for a bad day at the courthouse.
The named plaintiff in the lawsuit is a 55-year-old Black female, Zelia Brown, who was forced to take a leave of absence when she complained about missing grant money at HCC. She reported that the grant funds had been misused or taken to the federal government, according to the lawsuit. After federal investigators notified HCC officials they were going to investigate Ms. Brown’s allegations, she was immediately told not to return to work and to take a leave of absence. Her locked grant office is said to have been rummaged through while she was on this leave of absence. Although HCC is said to have later asked her to return to work, the return was conditioned on her accepting a false complaint that she had created a hostile work environment and presumably remain silent about the missing grant dollars. Ms. Brown refused to remain silent and filed suit. Tonight, she will speak to the media for the first time.
Zelia Brown is asking the court to approve a class action lawsuit against HCC on behalf of all Black employees who have been terminated or demoted since Maldonado became Chancellor in 2014. It is estimated that the number of class members will be in the hundreds with each member seeking individual damages in the case. Zelia Brown is represented in the lawsuit by Benjamin L. Hall, III, the former Houston City Attorney under Mayor Bob Lanier and former mayoral candidate. Hall stated, “Ms. Brown is one of the more recent casualties of what appears to be a modern-day Jim Crow environment at Houston Community College for Black executives. She is a brave lady to stand up to power and speak the truth. We feel confident there are more victims of HCC’s discriminatory policies who will come forward to tell their stories as well.”
The lawsuit has been filed in the 164th District Court and a copy of the lawsuit as well as the listed exhibits accompanies this press release.