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CSG COMMUNITY

Rep. Melanie Morgan

Washington

“My hope is that we would still be celebrating anyhow,” she said. “It would be a day of fellowship, just like July 4. This is the independence of black African Americans so it should be celebrated just as we celebrate the independence of America.”

On June 19, 1865, soldiers from the Union Army arrived in Texas and alerted the African Americans there that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation more than two years prior. In response, the former slaves celebrated. Often referred to as Emancipation Day, Juneteenth is on June 19 and commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. 

Washington state Rep. Melanie Morgan sponsored a bill in the 2021 session to provide a paid state holiday in honor and celebration of Juneteenth.

“The biggest reason, what spoke to me, is the atrocities need to be acknowledged,” Morgan said of sponsoring the legislation. “Our people need to be acknowledged. This country is still moving forward as if we do not exist, but we do belong. For me, this is a beginning of reconciliation in terms of what happened in our country.”

The bill was first introduced during the short session Washington held in 2020. Due to budget constraints, she had to bring the bill back in 2021, and it passed.

“There is something that we in the state of Washington need to recognize as black African Americans. It is our time. We have the ear, it behooves us to be engaged. The door has been opened. When I get there, its not a screen door. It is a door I am going to have my foot in so that everybody can come. It is our time to get what we feel is needed in our communities.”

The state holiday celebrating Juneteenth will not take effect until 2022.

On June 16, 2021, Congress approved a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. The House voted 415-14 to make June 19th the 12th federal holiday. The bill now goes to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

“Because we have a pandemic going on, I wanted to be cognizant and aware and the state of Washington need to take care of its people and the effects the pandemic has had on us,” Morgan said. “I put it in the bill, the actual paid part of it would not happen until 2022. The state as a whole we have to dig ourselves out. Even though we will be celebrating Juneteenth in 2021, it won’t be a paid holiday until 2022.”

Morgan will still be celebrating the day of freedom for her ancestors.

“My hope is that we would still be celebrating anyhow,” she said. “It would be a day of fellowship, just like July 4. This is the independence of black African Americans so it should be celebrated just as we celebrate the independence of America.”