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New bill seeks to make Juneteenth an official Tennessee holiday

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 as the nation approached its second bloody year of the American Civil War. In it, Lincoln proclaimed, “that all persons held as slaves, within the rebellious states are, and henceforward shall be free.” But news traveled slow before the age of social media and 24/7 news. Or maybe the folks in Texas – the most remote of the slave states with few Union soldiers present to enforce the proclamation – drug their feet. Either way, slavery remained the status quo in Texas well beyond what was lawful.

That changed on June 19, 1865 when Union Army General Gordon Granger traveled to Galveston, Texas to publicly read federal orders letting all Black slaves know they were free. That day, became known as Juneteenth.

At first, June 19 was only celebrated regionally in Texas with church-centered community meals but eventually the holiday spread throughout the South and eventually the United States. Today, friends and families across the nation will celebrate with cookouts, street festivals, and public remembrances.

In Tennessee, Juneteenth is recognized as a special day of observance but not an official state holiday. That could change if new legislation passes the General assembly. On Tuesday, Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) introduced a bill that would make Juneteenth an official state holiday.

JC Penney, Target, Twitter, the NFL and others give their employees a paid day off to celebrate. Banks such as Chase and Fifth Thirds Bank will close early that day. This year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam will also give state workers the day off and say they intend to make the day a state holiday.

To voice your opinion, contact Moore County’s representatives Representative Iris Rudder at 615-741-8695 or Senator Shane Reeves at 615-741-1066. •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently owned and operated newspaper that publishes new stories every morning. Covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

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