Politics and Government

Juneteenth is now a holiday in Minnesota

Young children watch a man signing a document
People watched as Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill making Juneteenth a state holiday on Friday Feb. 3, 2023 at the Minnesota Capitol.
Brian Bakst | MPR News

June 19, known as Juneteenth, will be officially commemorated in Minnesota after Gov. Tim Walz on Friday signed into law a measure making it a state holiday.

Juneteenth commemorates the day slavery was outlawed in Texas on June 19, 1865. It has been celebrated by Black Americans for decades because it marks the day that the final enslaved African Americans learned they were free.

Lawmakers who carried the legislation at the Minnesota Capitol said honoring the date as a state holiday would help Minnesotans remember the country’s history and move toward equality.

At a Capitol event Friday where Walz signed the bill and ceremonially signed the CROWN Act, those who worked to pass the Juneteenth legislation noted the importance of celebrating the history and experiences of Black Americans. 

People gather around a man signing a paper on a desk
Gov. Tim Walz held a ceremonial signing of the CROWN Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair, and signed a bill making Juneteenth a state holiday at the Capitol on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023.
Brian Bakst | MPR News

“I am the great-great-granddaughter of enslaved peoples,” said Rep Ruth Richardson, DFL-Mendota Heights, who sponsored the bill in the House. “I am the great-granddaughter of a traditional Black midwife, granddaughter of sharecroppers. And I am the daughter of a mother and father who grew up picking cotton in the fields of Mississippi and Alabama having their labor exploited. It is not lost on me that I am in fact my ancestors’ wildest dreams.”

Richardson noted that a bill to recognize Juneteenth was first introduced in the Minnesota House by the late Rep. Richard Jefferson in 1996, and said she was standing on the shoulders of those who came before her. 

“Juneteenth is not just a look back,” said Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, who sponsored the bill in the Senate. “It is a look back, but it is also for us to recommit ourselves to the future.”

Minnesota is the 26th state to take such a step, meaning more states have a Juneteenth holiday than don’t.

President Joe Biden signed legislation in 2021 making Juneteenth a national holiday.

Walz said he hopes the Minnesota holiday next year will be an opportunity to educate all Minnesotans about the history of Black people in the United States.

“This will be a day of celebration. It’ll be a day of state holiday, but it will be a day of educating folks why this is important,” Walz said. 

The push this year to make Juneteenth a state holiday in Minnesota had bipartisan support. 

The bill passed through the House of Representatives on Thursday night by a vote of 126-1. The  Senate passed it last week by a vote of 57-8.

“This is just a step in the right direction,” Richardson said. “And I hope that we will continue to find bipartisan support as we work to build a Minnesota that works for absolutely everyone.”