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Alaska Parliament passes law establishing Juneteenth as a state holiday

JUNEAU – On the final day of the legislative session, the Alaska Legislature passed Senate Bill 22, sponsored by Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson, D-Anchorage, officially recognizing Juneteenth, June 19, as an annual state holiday. This significant legislation commemorates the day in 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, and proclaimed the end of the Civil War and freedom for all enslaved people. This pivotal day, known as Juneteenth, marks the emancipation of formerly enslaved people in America.

Juneteenth is a day when people of all races come together in community, honor the sacrifices for America's freedom, and learn about the ongoing liberation struggle of Black Americans. Senate Bill 22 builds on the foundations laid in 2001, when then-Representative and former State Senator Lesil McGuire (R-Anchorage) passed House Bill 100, which declared the third Saturday in June as Juneteenth Day. The new bill reinforces that recognition and promotes a deeper understanding and broader celebration of Juneteenth.

“Juneteenth is a powerful reminder that freedom is priceless. On this day, we celebrate the end of slavery in our country and honor the resilience and contributions of Black Americans. By recognizing this day as an official national holiday, we reaffirm our commitment to freedom and justice for all,” said Senator Gray-Jackson.

“By making Juneteenth a state holiday, we not only honor the past, but also teach future generations the meaning of freedom and equality. This bill is a step toward a more inclusive and just society,” said bill co-sponsor Rep. Stanley Wright (R-Anchorage).

By establishing Juneteenth as an official holiday, Alaska joins a growing number of states recognizing this important day, securing its rightful place in our shared history and consciousness.

Senate Bill 22 passed the Senate by a vote of 16 to 4 on May 3, 2023, and the House by a vote of 37 to 3 on May 15, 2024. The bill will now be sent to Governor Dunleavy for his signature.

Anna Harden

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