ND Moves Closer to Recognizing Juneteenth as Holiday

K. William Boyer
Devils Lake Journal

BISMARCK, N.D. -- The North Dakota Legislature has sent the governor a bill that would recognize Juneteenth as a ceremonial holiday.

Supporters say the move is long overdue, with only a few states having yet to take such action. Juneteenth, which is celebrated in most of the country, is viewed as the end of chattel slavery in the U.S.

The North Dakota bill makes June 19 a holiday, but not a paid day off for government employees.

Faith Shields-Dixon, co-leader of Fargo-Moorhead Black Lives Matter, testified in support of the effort when the bill was heard by a committee in February.

"It is a singular moment in U.S. history, and it solidifies the reality that Black history is American history," Shields-Dixon remarked.

South Dakota and Hawaii are the only other states that don't recognize Juneteenth as a holiday. In conjunction with state-level efforts, there's a push to make it a national holiday.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862, slavery still existed. It wasn't until the end of the Civil War in 1865 when the last enslaved people in Texas were notified they were free.

The North Dakota bill cleared the House this week after winning Senate approval earlier this year. Gov. Doug Burgum, who issued a proclamation during the racial reckoning last year, is expected to sign it.

Rep. Austen Schauer, R-West Fargo, who led the effort through the lower chamber, described the bill during this week's House vote as a step of good will toward becoming a nation of respect for each other.

"It is meant to bring unity to a sometimes, if not often, divided country," Schauer stated.

South Dakota and Hawaii are the only other states that don't recognize Juneteenth as a holiday. In conjunction with state-level efforts, there's a push to make it a national holiday.

K. William Boyer is the Managing Editor of the Devils Lake News Journal. He can be reached at kboyer@gannett.com, or by phone at (701) 662-2127.  

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