Ky. state representative plans to pre-file bill to make Juneteenth a holiday

Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 4:11 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Juneteenth is on its way to becoming a federal holiday, but the effort to make it a state holiday has been put on hold.

Last year, Kentucky Senate leaders promised to file legislation to make Juneteenth a state holiday but it never got filed.

“We were working on so many big issues, it probably slipped through the cracks but I apologize for that,” Senator Robert Stivers said.

State Representative George Brown, also vice chair of the Kentucky Black Legislative Caucus, is picking up the slack. He plans to pre-file a bill on Thursday.

“It’s very important that we remember that America has got a lot of issues and transgressions that it’s got to deal with,” Rep. Brown said.

Juneteenth, a day commemorating the end of slavery, is celebrated across the U.S. and has ties here in Kentucky.

On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger announced in Galveston, Texas that all slaves were free. Gordon is buried at The Lexington Cemetery. His wife’s family was from the bluegrass.

About a 10-minute drive away is Henry A. Tandy Centennial Park, where slaves were once sold. The man who helped get the park renamed after a freed Kentucky slave says Juneteenth is long overdue.

“I wish that this was paired with more action, but we take each step one step at a time,” said DeBraun Thomas, co-founder of Take Back Cheapside.

The University of Kentucky will recognize Juneteenth as holiday for the first time this year. The campus will shut down on Friday since the holiday falls on Saturday.

“It should be a day that brings us together now. For us to remember and for us to reconcile, for us to look ahead,” said George Wright, interim vice president for institutional diversity and senior adviser to UK’s president.

The U.S. House is expected to vote on the bill Wednesday, making Juneteenth a federal holiday. If the bill passes, it heads to President Joe Biden’s desk and could be signed into law ahead of the holiday on Saturday.

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