SOUTH CAROLINA (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Federal offices were closed Monday for Juneteenth the first anniversary it has been recognized as a national holiday.
A new Gallup poll shows about six in 10 U.S. adults say they know “a lot” or “some” about the Juneteenth holiday.
Juneteenth marks the official day — June 19, 1865 — that slavery ended in the United States more than two years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Word of freedom traveled slow, it took Union soldiers two years to deliver the message to more than 250,000 slaves in Galveston, Texas freeing the last enslaved Africans in America.
In North Carolina, Governor Roy Cooper issued a proclamation acknowledging Juneteenth as an “opportunity to reflect, rejoice, and work toward a brighter future as we continue to address racial injustices in our society today.”
The governor stopped short of making Juneteenth an official North Carolina holiday. Instead, Cooper granted a floating holiday that state workers can choose to use on Juneteenth or any other day with supervisor approval.
Like North Carolina, South Carolina state offices remain open on Juneteenth, but Gov. Henry McMaster has not issued a proclamation.
South Carolina state legislature passed a law earlier this year that grants workers a floating holiday to choose to take Juneteenth or another day off in place of Confederate Memorial Day.
South Carolina state offices are closed on May 10 for Confederate Memorial Day, marking the day Confederate General Stonewall Jackson died and Union forces in Georgia captured Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
South Carolina Representative Marvin Pendarvis from House District 113 says the acknowledgment of people who fought to keep slavery, but not the day all slaves became free demonstrates a pattern in the state.
“Some of the first slaves to step foot in this country came through the Port of Charleston, so there’s a certain history about this state,” Rep. Pendarvis said. “There’s always been this tortured past as to acknowledging the full story, especially when it comes to African people being here and not only acknowledging it but telling the full story.”
Rep. Pendarvis pointed out that SC was the last state to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2000. Before that, workers had a choice to take that day off or any Confederate Holiday.
“There’s a lot of push and pull when it comes to trying to deal with these holidays and to get some of my colleagues to understand that this is part of the American story,” Representative Pendarvis said.
There is a bill in SC legislature that would make Juneteenth a state holiday. The latest action in the House referred the bill to the Judiciary committee. There’s no word on whether the bill would make it to the floor for a vote, but Rep. Pendarvis says he is a part of an effort with the SC Legislative Black Caucus and others to make it happen.
“Less than a month from now, we will be celebrating the Fourth of July. There will be a lot of talk and fireworks and red, white, and blue for the independence of our country in 1776, but that independence was not realized by everyone,” Rep. Pendarvis said. “So there’s a lot of frustration when it comes to African people, especially African Americans in this country, and getting the proper recognition that our people deserve. That’s why I’ve been pushing and we’ll continue to push and continue to lean on our colleagues to understand what’s right.”