Juneteenth expected to become a state holiday in Louisiana

Bill passed unanimously in both chambers

The Louisiana Legislature has passed a bill that recognizes the third Saturday in June as Juneteenth, the day that enslaved Africans learned that they'd been freed from bondage. (Credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Juneteenth, a day celebrating the delayed news of freedom finally reaching those who’d been enslaved in the United States, will soon be a state holiday in Louisiana if Gov. John Bel Edwards signs legislation that passed Monday.

House Bill 554, sponsored by Larry Selders (D-Baton Rouge), would designate the third Saturday in June as Juneteenth Day, and mark it as “day of public rest and a legal holiday.” The Louisiana House of Representatives and Louisiana Senate passed the bill unanimously.

On Jan. 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which ostensibly set free people in the Rebel states, that is, states that were not then under the United States’ control.  Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865, but some people in Galveston, Tex.,  who were freed by the Union victory didn’t know they were free until Union officials reached them on June 19. 

Juneteenth is already recognized as “a special day of celebration” in Louisiana, but the bill would elevate  the day’s status to a legal holiday.

“For some folks that look like me and others, it is an important day that should be celebrated and recognized,” Selders said to the Illuminator Monday. “(Juneteenth) is worthy of being a state holiday for sure.”

The bill now moves to the governor’s desk.