Governor Declares Juneteenth as a Legal Holiday in Connecticut

NBC Connecticut

Gov. Ned Lamont signed legislation Friday declaring Juneteenth as a legal state holiday beginning next year.

Juneteenth Independence Day takes place on June 19 every year - it's the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S., according to the governor's office.

“Juneteenth marks an important day in our nation that for far too long has gone underrecognized and has not been truly appreciated to the extent that it should be as a major part of United States history,” Lamont said. “While some elected officials in other states are working to block efforts to teach the true history of our nation, it fills me with pride that here in Connecticut we are embracing that history and working to educate everyone about how our nation was built and the significance of what this day means."

The law won't take effect until Oct. 1, 2022. This means that the first time Juneteenth will be legally recognized as a state holiday in Connecticut will be in 2023.

The governor said the decision to close schools on Juneteenth will be made by each school district. Lamont's office said that each local and regional board of education that remains open will have to provide a "suitable educational program" to observe the holiday.

"I firmly believe that ignoring the reality of slavery and the impact that it has had on the United States for many, many decades after it was outlawed is an injustice and does not benefit anyone, of any race or ethnicity. Honoring and celebrating Juneteenth is a reaffirmation that a democratic society is not great because it is the perfect way to govern people, but because people have the ability to fix the imperfections of government and create a stronger, fairer, and more just future," Lamont continued.

The legislation passed with near unanimous support in the General Assembly, with a vote of 148 to 1 in the House and 35 to 1 in the Senate.

“I particularly want to recognize the Black members of the Connecticut General Assembly for working to advance this bill through the legislature. I watched the debate in the House on the day this bill passed, and it was undoubtedly one of the most emotional discussions I have seen in either chamber in a very long time," the governor said.

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