Cuomo signs law making Juneteenth a state holiday

Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office
A bill signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on October 14, 2020 will make every June 19 a permanent state holiday, with paid leave for state employees. Juneteenth marks the effective end of slavery in the United States, when Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas with federal troops to read General Order No. 3 announcing the end of the Civil War and that all enslaved were now free.

On October 14, Andrew Cuomo signed legislation making Juneteenth an official state holiday.

The designation will make June 19 a paid day of leave for state employees.

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, commemorates June 19, 1865, when the news of liberation came to Texas more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863.

African Americans across the state were made aware of their right to freedom on this day when Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston with federal troops to read General Order No. 3 announcing the end of the Civil War and that all enslaved were now free.

The presence of Granger’s troops allowed the emancipation process to finally move forward, effectively ending slavery in the United States.

“I am incredibly proud to sign into law this legislation declaring Juneteenth an official holiday in New York State, a day which commemorates the end to slavery in the United States,” Governor Cuomo said. “This new public holiday will serve as a day to recognize the achievements of the Black community, while also providing an important opportunity for self-reflection on the systemic injustices that our society still faces today.”

The celebration is the longest-running African-American holiday to date and is considered to be America’s second independence day, as it has been a tradition for more than 150 years.

Many states recognize the holiday in some capacity, except Hawaii, North Dakota and South Dakota, but few have made it an official state holiday, providing paid leave to employees.

Earlier this year, Cuomo issued an executive order recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday for New York State employees. But his signing of the bill (S.8598/A.10628) this week codifies it into state law, making it a permanent, annual holiday.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Kevin Parker and Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman.

“Finally, we are beginning to acknowledge the historic oppression and injustices that African-Americans have endured,” Sen. Parker said. “This holiday is a first step in reconciliation and healing that our great state needs in order to ensure equity for all people.”

The bill, which passed unanimously in both the Senate and Assembly, states that Juneteenth is meant to commemorate black and African-American freedom and achievements while encouraging continuous selfd-evelopment and respect for all cultures.

“Juneteenth serves as a piece of history towards black liberation in this country,” Assemblywoman Hyndman said. “I am glad to [help ensure] these important parts of black American history will continue to be told in our great state of New York.”