North Dakota Legislature passes Juneteenth bill

Dylan Sherman

BISMARCK — After a House vote, North Dakota is on track to become the 48th state to recognize Juneteenth as a state-recognized ceremonial holiday.

Senate Bill 2232 passed the House by a vote of 70-22, after passing the Senate in February by a vote of 44-3.

Rep. Austen Schauer, R-West Fargo, carried the bill on the floor and said Juneteenth is also known as Freedom Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day. Juneteenth commemorates when African-Americans learned they were free in Galveston, Texas, in 1865, and only North Dakota, South Dakota and Hawaii don’t recognize it.

Logo for Juneteenth Freedom Festival in Fayetteville.

“Recognizing this important milestone in our country’s history is important,” he said. “It is a step of goodwill toward becoming a nation of respect toward each other.”

Schauer said the holiday does not include a mandatory day off for private or public employees, but is meant to bring unity to a divided country.

Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, was the only representative to speak out against the bill on the floor, suggesting the Legislature was just “going with the flow.”

“This is more of a movement more in line with it being woke,” he said. “Wokeness, it comes from the left.”

Becker also questioned why the freedom of slaves would be celebrated on June 19, rather than when the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on Jan. 1, 1863.

Rep. Matthew Ruby, R-Minot, responded that the Declaration of Independence was voted on July 2, before being adopted by states on July 4. “If we are going to follow that same line, then we should be celebrating July 2 instead of July 4,” he said. “This bill is just closing the door on one of the darkest chapters in our history as a nation.”

The bill will now move to the governor’s desk for him to sign into law.

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.  

Be sure to follow Devils Lake Journal on our twitter page, @devilslakenews, and like us on Facebook!