Michigan Senate OKs bill making Juneteenth a state holiday

A Juneteenth Parade in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at Malcom X Park in 2019.

By Ken Coleman, Michigan Advance

In bipartisan fashion, the state Senate on Wednesday approved legislation to make Juneteenth, a holiday widely celebrated by Black Americans for years, an official holiday in Michigan.

State Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) was the only vote against Senate Bill 50, sponsored by Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit). A call by the Advance to Runestad’s office was not immediately returned.

“I have been working on this issue throughout my time in the Senate. I am honored to carry on the great work of my legislative predecessors and am so proud to see this bill pass the full Senate — and nearly unanimously,” Santana told the Advance on Wednesday. 

Juneteenth recognizes the date in which slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned of their freedom on June 19, 1865 — more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

The bill would designate June 19 of each year as a state-recognized, public holiday. It “brings Juneteenth on par with our state and federal holidays as a bank and judiciary holiday in the state,” according to Alex Rossman, a state Senate spokesman. 

“This is another major milestone as we work in our state and our nation to tackle our history head on and better acknowledge, recognize, and in this case, celebrate the diverse experiences of all cultures and races,” Santana said. “I appreciate the widespread, bipartisan support of this bill and the progress and awareness of Juneteenth that it illustrates, and I will keep looking for ways to find common ground to make Michigan a more inclusive state for all.”   

The bill heads to the House for consideration.

If Juneteenth is recognized as a public holiday in Michigan, it would align with the federal government making it a national holiday in June 2022. Following federal legislation, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proclaimed June 19, 2022, as Juneteenth Celebration Day in Michigan.

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