Colorado gained an 11th state holiday Monday when Gov. Jared Polis signed SB22-139 to recognize Juneteenth.
Celebrated annually on June 19, Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce the end of the Civil War and the emancipation of enslaved Black people.
Gov. Jared Polis and the state employees union last year agreed to make Juneteenth a new, official state holiday — and SB22-139 is an enactment of that agreement. The bill was championed by three members of Colorado’s Black legislative caucus.
“Making Juneteenth a state holiday means Colorado would not only recognize that Black people are free, but that all people are free,” said state Sen. James Coleman, a Denver Democrat and a lead sponsor of the Juneteenth bill. “It is a recognition that we not only desire for some Coloradans to prosper, but for all to prosper, and for all Coloradans, regardless of race or background, to earn a living wage, have an affordable place to call home, and get the equitable access to health care and education people need to move forward and thrive.”
His Senate cosponsor, Aurora Democrat Janet Buckner, said it’s “long past time” Colorado made this change.
“I am proud to champion this important legislation which will help educate all Coloradans about the horrors of slavery, make space to celebrate the Black community, and lift up our ongoing work to make sure we don’t forget our past,” she said.
Though state government will recognize the holiday, other workplaces will have the option to observe it, or not, as is already the case for other holidays. When Juneteenth falls on a weekend, affected workers will get the next Monday off.
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