New state holiday would commemorate the day Union soldiers arrived in Texas to announce the end of the Civil War and declare that more than 250,000 enslaved Black people were free
DENVER, CO – Governor Jared Polis signed landmark legislation championed by members of the Black Democratic Legislative Caucus of Colorado to make Juneteenth a Colorado State Holiday. The bill, SB22-139, is sponsored by Senators James Coleman, D-Denver, and Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, as well as Representative Leslie Herod, D-Denver.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union Soldiers, led by Major General Gordan Granger, arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce the end of the Civil War and declare that more than 250,000 enslaved Black people were free.
“Juneteenth is more than just a federal holiday we recognize in historical Black communities like Five Points where we march, eat good food and listen to good music,” said Coleman. “Making Juneteenth a state holiday means Colorado would not only recognize that Black people are free, but that all people are free. It is a recognition that we not only desire for some Coloradans to prosper, but for all to prosper, and for all Coloradans, regardless of race or background, to earn a living wage, have an affordable place to call home, and get the equitable access to health care and education people need to move forward and thrive.”
“Juneteenth has been celebrated by the Black community for generations, and beginning today, this statewide holiday will receive all formal recognition, celebration and reflection it deserves,” said Herod, Chairwoman of the Black Democratic Legislative Caucus of Colorado. “This Emancipation Day reminds us of the atrocities our ancestors endured and how we must never give up hope in uncertain times. Juneteenth uplifts the voices of the Black community and showcases the perseverance of past and present generations–I’m proud to call it Colorado’s 11th state holiday.”
“It’s long past time to make Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery and honors freedom for all of us, a Colorado state holiday,” said Buckner. “I am proud to champion this important legislation which will help educate all Coloradans about the horrors of slavery, make space to celebrate the Black community, and lift up our ongoing work to make sure we don’t forget our past.”
“Today, as we celebrate Colorado’s newest state holiday, we reflect on the fearless attitudes and leadership of our Black ancestors,” said Rep. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs. “Juneteenth educates Coloradans on the past and reserves space for Black voices. This important Emancipation Day has been celebrated by the Black community for decades and now it will receive the statewide recognition it deserves.”
Today’s ceremony was held at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance facility in the Five Points neighborhood of Denver in coordination with the Juneteenth Music Festival (JMF Corporation), where members of the dance company along with Tony Exum Jr. performed to celebrate the historic bill signing.