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Gov. Murphy makes Juneteenth a state holiday

  • State

Juneteenth is now a state holiday in New Jersey.
With singer and Maplewood native SZA cheering him on virtually, Gov. Phil Murphy made the day known as Emancipation Day official in the state.
It marks the day Union Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, to inform slaves of the Emancipation Proclamation that had been signed two year earlier.
But in recent years it has gained more recognition, with many in the Black community saying it and not the Fourth of July is the true day of their ancestors' independence.
"Commemorating this date is just one component of our collective approach to end a generational cycle of pain and injustice that has gone on for far too long," Murphy said. "Every Juneteenth, we will celebrate the end of the physical chains which once held Black Americans down. While more work lies ahead to undo the oppression that remains, Juneteenth is an important marker that reminds us of our mission to create a society that enables our Black communities to achieve the full equality which they deserve.”
This past June, several U.S. senators introduced legislation to make to make it a federal holiday. New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker was among its sponsors.
"Juneteenth is about reclaiming our history, rejoicing in the progress we’ve made, and recommitting to the work yet undone," the senator said at the time. "Our nation still has a long way to go to reckon with and overcome the dark legacy of slavery and the violence and injustice that has persisted after its end.”
Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver noted that the day has always been an important one in the African American community.
"It represents a day of true liberation of Black people from slavery in America," she said. "It’s also a reminder that centuries later, not all of us are treated equally and that freedom and democracy are not a given. Our fight for civil rights and freedom from discrimination and oppression continues today.
SZA, who has written songs with such stars as Rihanna, Justin Timberlake and Adam Levine, was there virtually with the governor as he signed.

“I am a direct descendant of slavery. My great grandmother, my great-great grandmother, that is my family. It is not even a past stain,” she said. “It is a current reality that we are living through the post-traumatic slave syndrome, the PTSD, and the effects of that currently, right now. Thank you, Governor Murphy for this.”

What state leaders say

Senate President Steve Sweeney:
"Juneteenth marks a day of freedom for Black Americans who suffered the cruelty of slavery and an opportunity to honor the history and contributions of African Americans. This takes on greater significance as the entire country is confronting the racism and inequality that is the bitter legacy of slavery. We can use June 19th and the days that follow to undue past harms and renew our commitment to justice and equality for all.”

Sen. Sandra Cunningham:
"We have a lot to learn from our history and unfortunately the delay in ending slavery and the lasting impact the institution has on our country is not taught enough. We want everyone to remember that Juneteenth is part of the history of all Americans. Hopefully, through this law, as well as deeper education and a more honest review of our nation's history, more New Jerseyans can realize the significance of Juneteenth and understand the systemic issues that have continued to plague our country since that day in 1865."

Sen. Ron Rice:
“Juneteenth is not only a holiday on the ending of slavery in this country, but also a reflection on the history of slavery and the suffering sustained by the Black community since 1619. Black history in this country is a continued battle for social progress, and right now we are seeing people from all backgrounds fight for that progress and improve upon what has been gained. I am glad more people are learning about Juneteenth because the more we educate people, the more we can start a dialogue on how to fix the racial divide in this country. I look forward to Juneteenth next year where everyone in New Jersey will celebrate and reflect together.”

Sen. Joe Cryan:
“This is a way of recognizing the end of slavery in America as an important milestone in the Nation’s history,. A state holiday won’t change everything, but it will provide a platform to increase the understanding of what has happened in the past so that we can learn from it. When we recognize the experiences of history, we are better for it. We can be enriched as a state and more able to move towards equality for everyone.”

Assemblymembers Jamel Holley, Benjie Wimberly, and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson:
“We’re at another set of crossroads in this country’s history — just as we were in 1863 — where we can decide to move humanity forward by once again acknowledging the wrongs committed against African Americans and taking bold action to correct them. A visual illustration of the impact of centuries of systematic and institutionalized racism has our country reeling over the question, ‘Why?’ Why does this continue to persist in our communities today? Juneteenth was a defining moment in American History, claiming the beginning of African American independence in this country. It is time for the commemoration of a pivotal moment in history to become an official state holiday, underscoring its importance to our communities and giving time for reflection on how far we have come and have to go to achieve equality and justice for all.”


Lynda Cohen

Lynda Cohen founded BreakingAC after working as a local newspaper reporter for more than two decades. She is an NJPA award-winner and was a Stories of Atlantic City fellow.

Sunday, May 19, 2024
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