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Folsom man is part of a movement to make Juneteenth a paid holiday in California cities

Darrell Smith, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in News & Features

Three years ago, President Joe Biden signed Juneteenth National Independence Day into law to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States on June 19 annually.

The holiday — on a Wednesday this year — closes federal facilities and gives federal employees a day off.

California officially recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday in 2023, giving state workers the option of taking the day off in lieu of a personal day.

But how California’s local governments, including those in the Sacramento area, mark the day of liberation is a mixed bag: Celebrations in one, observances in another, official public holidays in still other jurisdictions.

A Black advocate in Folsom is part of a statewide movement to urge California cities to designate Juneteenth an official public holiday in alignment with federal law and California’s designated state holiday.

“Juneteenth is not just a Black-only holiday. This is a federal holiday,” said Michael Harris, part of National Juneteenth Observance Foundation-California. The advocacy group seeks to expand cities’ official marking of the federal holiday across California’s 58 counties, focusing on cities with populations of 100,000 or more.


“To have a law that’s quasi-optional makes no sense. This is the only federal holiday that’s treated this way,” Harris said. “All other federal holidays, it’s a day off and it’s celebrating a holiday. But Juneteenth is quasi-optional. You can opt not to celebrate it.”

Who has Juneteenth off?

Juneteenth commemorates the date when Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 to announce the end of the Civil War and an end to slavery, two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Texas marked the date an official holiday in 1980, but the date, also known as Jubilee or Emancipation Day, had long been celebrated unofficially in the Lone Star State.

Biden’s signature in 2021, a year after the police killing of George Floyd in 2020 that triggered a national reckoning on race, the holiday officially celebrated the freedom of enslaved Black people more than 150 years after slavery’s end.


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