A North Carolina county's board of commissioners will vote Monday to make Juneteenth a county holiday, and to declare racism as a public health crisis.
Wake County Board of Commissioners Chairman Greg Ford made the announcement on Twitter Saturday, saying all commissioners on the board are planning to vote in favor of the declaration Monday. Ford said the resolution was “both timely and overdue.”
The proposed resolution making Juneteenth a paid holiday includes an acknowledgement that systemic racism has affected Wake County's employees and community. The resolution also says the board of commissioners is committed to improving access to opportunities and to ensuring that employees do not experience inequities in Wake County Government.
Juneteenth commemorates when the last enslaved African Americans learned they were free. While the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the South beginning Jan. 1, 1863, it wasn’t enforced in many places until after the end of the Civil War two years later. Confederate soldiers surrendered in April 1865, but word didn’t reach the last enslaved Black people until June 19, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to Galveston, Texas.
If the resolution passes, June 19 would be a paid holiday for county employees.
In a Twitter response to Ford’s announcement, Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said Raleigh, which is in Wake County, would be “doing the same."
The holiday is usually celebrated with parades and festivals but became a day of protest this year in the wake of demonstrations set off by the death of George Floyd, a Black Minneapolis man who died after a white police officer jammed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
Meanwhile, Wake commissioners will also vote on a resolution Monday that says racism should be treated with the same urgency and funding as any other public health crisis; noting the COVID-19 pandemic's disproportionate impacts on people of color.