Minnesota House sends Juneteenth holiday bill to governor's desk

While Minnesota has symbolically recognized Juneteenth in the past, a bill would cement it as an official paid holiday for state employees.

Amelia Hamlin, 9, raises her fist during a Juneteenth rally outside City Hall on Friday, June 19, 2020.
Tyler Schank / File / Duluth News Tribune

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota House of Representatives on Thursday, Feb. 2, passed a bill designating Juneteenth, the celebration of the end of slavery in the United States, as a state holiday. The measure now awaits the governor's signature.

Juneteenth has been recognized as a federal holiday since 2021, but less than half the states have moved to do the same. While Minnesota symbolically recognizes Juneteenth on the third Saturday in June, the new legislation would cement it as an official paid holiday for state employees.

"The celebration of Juneteenth provides space for all of us to reflect on a more inclusive definition of freedom," said Rep. Ruth Richardson, Democratic-Farmer-Labor-Mendota Heights, who carried the bill in the House. "The end of chattel slavery in this country is an important milestone worthy of recognition and worthy of celebration. And it's a step in the right direction of truly living up to the promise of this nation: That all are created equal."

The House passed the bill 126-1.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced that a quarter-million slaves in the state were free. President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation more than two years earlier, but Texas was among the last Confederate territories to be brought under control by federal forces.


Texas has observed Juneteenth since 1980, though in recent years the holiday has become more prominent nationally. The federal government and several states moved to establish the holiday following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in 2020, which sparked a national reckoning on race and policing.

President Joe Biden signed a bill to designate Juneteenth as a federal holiday in 2021, the first year the holiday was officially observed nationally in the U.S.

All states and the District of Columbia have commemorated or recognized Juneteenth, according to the Congressional Research Service, though fewer than half recognize it as a holiday. Eighteen states observed Juneteenth as a paid holiday as of mid-2022.

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Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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