Idaho’s U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, both Republican, joined a bipartisan coalition of 48 senators in introducing legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
If S. 4019 passes, the federal government would observe the June 19 holiday in parity with Idaho’s existing recognition of the celebration.
“Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of ending slavery in the United States,” Crapo and Risch said in a joint statement released by their offices Thursday. “The period of slavery in America stained our nation’s promise of liberty and justice for all. Juneteenth celebrates an end to this shameful period, recognizes the contributions of Black American culture and marks a renewed commitment to ensuring the reality of equality and opportunity for all Americans.”
Idaho was the fifth state to recognize Juneteenth as either a state holiday or a day of observance in 2001, and now nearly every state does, the senators’ release states. Idaho is not, however, among the states that give government workers a paid holiday on June 19, according to the governor’s office.
Nationwide, corporate executives, sports officials and a growing number of elected officials are calling for Juneteenth to be an official U.S. holiday, NPR reports.
A number of companies this year gave their employees June 19 off as a paid holiday, including Nike, Citigroup, Twitter, Uber, Adobe, Lyft, the NFL, Postmates, Quicken Loans, Spotify, Target and Tumblr, according to CBS News. Major banks — including JPMorgan Chase, Capital One, PNC and Fifth Third — closed early to observe the day.
Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 when Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free, according to Juneteenth.com.
Although the Emancipation Proclamation had freed slaves more than two years earlier, the news had not yet reached Texas. The following year, June 19 was celebrated as the anniversary of their emancipation. Since then, Juneteenth observances and celebrations have taken place across the country for more than 155 years.