Oregon to recognize Juneteenth as official state holiday

"Family stories say, ‘joy was the first emotion, and next skepticism. However, hope stood at the center of a possible future for my family and so many families," said Oregon state senator Lew Frederick.

Oregon state senators have come to the unanimous decision to make Juneteenth an official state holiday. The Oregon Senate passed the legislation on Tuesday, which marked the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. 

The legislation, called House Bill 2168 will take effect in 2022 and will go to the Illinois House for review, KVAL reports. Illinois Governor Kate Brown introduced the legislation last June at the height of global protests against anti-Black racism following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. 

In response to a tweet from producer Pharrell Williams, Brown wrote in 2020: “I’m officially proclaiming June 19 as Juneteenth in Oregon and I will introduce a bill in 2021 to make it a state holiday. Celebrating Black freedom this year is fiercely important as people around the world protest systemic racism and undeniably show that Black Lives Matter.”

Though Oregon has recognized Juneteenth since 2001, this is different than making it an official state holiday, which is what House Bill 2168 would do.

On Tuesday, Oregon state senator Lew Frederick (D-OR) delivered a speech that acknowledged the efforts of Clara Peoples – a Portland woman who advocated for the holiday’s observance for years.

Frederick shared what making Juneteenth an official state holiday means to as a descendant of enslaved people.

“The Emancipation Proclamation news arrived in waves to the enslaved Black women and men of my family. Family stories say, ‘joy was the first emotion, and next skepticism’,” said Frederick. 

“However, hope stood at the center of a possible future for my family and so many families. That hope continues to this day. So does the skepticism. The two can dance together, and in that dance, we can progress, and we can amplify hope.”

Oregon Senate Democrats released an official statement on Tuesday confirming the bill’s progress to the House and eventually, Governor Brown’s desk. State senators heralded the passage as a historic moment. 

“Today the Senate joined the House in voting to make Juneteenth an Oregon state holiday,” Oregon State Senator Michael Dembrow (D-OR) wrote on Twitter. “Senator Lew Frederick’s carry was incredibly moving, showing the meaning of this important act through the lens of his family and community over the past century and a half.”

As theGrio previously reported, the Illinois House passed legislation in May that would make Juneteenth a state holiday. If signed by Illinois Governor Jay Robert Pritzker, that legislation will be turned into law and take effect in time for this year’s Juneteenth observance. 

On June 19, 1865, enslaved people in Galveston, Texas were informed of the Emancipation Proclamation two and a half years after former President Abraham Lincoln signed the historical act.

Juneteenth is an annual holiday that celebrates the abolishment of slavery in the U.S. Hawaii, North Dakota, and South Dakota are the only states that have never recognized Juneteenth as a holiday or observance, according to the Congressional Research Service. 

theGrio’s DeMicia Inman contributed to this report.

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