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Juneteenth on way to becoming Minnesota's newest holiday

America annually celebrates its independence on July 4.

However, Rep. Ruth Richardson (DFL-Mendota Heights) said that observance isn’t entirely correct.

“It’s about freedom; it’s about liberty, but it’s also about an imperfect freedom because slavery legally exists in this nation,” she told a House committee last month. “To be clear Black enslaved men contributed to the independence of our nation and fought in the Revolutionary War.

“… The celebration of Juneteenth provides space for all of us to reflect on a more inclusive definition of freedom. 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.”

She and Sen. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Mpls) sponsor HF48/SF13* that would designate Juneteenth, June 19, as a state holiday.

Passed 126-1 by the House Thursday, the bill now heads to the governor, who has indicated he’ll sign it. Senate passage was 57-8 Jan. 26.

It marks the date in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to ensure the last enslaved people in the United States be set free, more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

The bill would also ensure the holiday is June 19, no matter the day of the week.

Current law designates the third Saturday in June as an official state observance. “Each year the governor shall issue a proclamation honoring this observance and recognizing the important contributions African-Americans have made to Minnesota's communities, culture, and economy.” The proclamation language would remain in law.

Juneteenth became a federal holiday on June 17, 2021.

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