House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee is calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to issue a proclamation commemorating Friday’s Juneteenth celebration.
“Juneteenth is a commemoration of June 19, 1865 when the Union Soldiers read the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, Texas,” McGhee wrote in his Thursday letter.
“The enslaved people of Galveston were the last to get the news of freedom, two and a half years after President [Abraham] Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was official on January 1, 1863. Therefore, June 19 came to symbolize the freedom of all enslaved people of African heritage in the United States of America and has been celebrated ever since.”
Florida law gives the Governor the power to make such a move.
“The Governor may issue annually a proclamation designating June 19 as Juneteenth Day and calling on public officials, schools, private organizations, and all citizens to honor the historic significance of the day,” the relevant law reads.
McGhee, however, is also pushing the Governor to support legislation that would make Juneteenth a public holiday.
“Florida’s list of public holidays already includes the birthdays of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis as well as Confederate Memorial Day. Surely, a holiday celebrating the freedom of enslaved Black people is worthy of the same honor here in a place as diverse as Sunshine State,” McGhee continued.
“Juneteenth is a holiday that should be celebrated by everyone, as it symbolizes freedom for all regardless of race, color, or creed. Our country was founded on the idea of freedom and justice for all, and this is the date when that rang true all across the nation.”
The date has garnered increased attention this year in the aftermath of social activism seen throughout the country. George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis prompted President Donald Trump to sign an executive order incentivizing changes among police departments. Congress is also considering additional legislation.
Trump, however, earned criticism for scheduling his first rally in months on Juneteenth. The campaign later rescheduled that event for the next day, Saturday, June 20.
While the Governor’s proclamation wouldn’t make the celebration a full holiday, McGhee said the effort will carry weight with the minority community.
“Juneteenth commemorates freedom from bondage and that is worth celebrating,” McGhee said.
“America was founded on the pursuit of freedom, liberty, and justice. What could be more American than celebrating the emancipation of slaves and our country taking a major step towards those ideals? I respectfully request that Gov. DeSantis do all in his power to lift up this important day in our history.”