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Juneteenth set to become an official Washington state holiday

A board is covered with messages during the Juneteenth Freedom March and Celebration at the Jimi Hendrix Park on June 19, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

Juneteenth is going to become an official Washington state holiday, as soon as the governor signs legislation that has now passed both the state Senate and House.

“Observing June 19th as Juneteenth will recognize the significance of America’s history of slavery, the vestiges of which continue in the oppression from institutional racism that remain today,” Gov. Jay Inslee said.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day when the last enslaved African Americans learned they were free. Union soldiers brought the news to Galveston, Texas, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

One woman, at a Juneteenth celebration in Seattle last summer, told KIRO Radio: “This is freedom day. This is our Fourth of July.”

Juneteenth bill would ‘acknowledge the atrocity of slavery’

The bill to make Juneteenth a legal state holiday was sponsored by Rep. Melanie Morgan (D-Parkland), which received overwhelming bipartisan support with 47 yeas on the Senate floor Friday.

“I am so proud of the State of Washington. I asked my fellow legislators to pass this bill so that we can show the country that we are serious about equity in this state,” Morgan said. “Recognizing Juneteenth as a legal state holiday is a down payment towards racial reconciliation and healing. This is just a continuation of dismantling racism, just as when in 2020 the legislature passed the State Office of Equity to bring parity to communities of color. There is more work to be done and I am excited to bring more civil rights legislation to our legislature.”

“When I spoke before the Senate Committee on State Government & Elections on March 10, I stressed the impact of chattel slavery on those who were enslaved, and how it has impacted us today. I want to thank Senator T’wina Nobles for delivering that message and sharing my words so beautifully during final passage in the Senate,” Morgan continued. “Juneteenth is a recognition, a true acknowledgement, that chattel slavery happened in this country. This is how we begin to advocate for true racial equity and real inclusion.”

HB 1016 is now on its way to the governor to be signed into law.

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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