With Congress on the verge of approving a federal holiday for Juneteenth — commemorating June 19 as the date in 1865 that the last slaves were emancipated — the day’s leading advocate in the Florida Legislature vowed Wednesday he’ll try again to win state recognition.
Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy, who is running for Congress in Florida’s 10th Congressional District, said Wednesday the timing is right.
Some proponents of recognizing emancipation as a holiday argued June 19 is not historically accurate in Florida. That’s the date word made it to Texas of the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves. But Florida actually got the news about a month earlier, on May 20.
Bracy then amended the key provision to another bill (HB 1553, the “Victims of Communism Day Act,” in order to recognize both June 19 and May 20 as legal holidays in Florida. But Bracy’s effort died again as the House refused to accept the amended version, expressing preference for a day of observance over a legal holiday.
On Tuesday the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution declaring June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day. The bill could be approved in the House as soon as Wednesday, and President Joe Biden is expected to sign it. SB 475 would lead to Juneteenth becoming the 12th federal holiday, and federal employees would have the day off.
“In light of what Washington is doing, I think we’ll come back and do it again next year, since we were so close,” Bracy said Wednesday.
The vast majority of states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or have an official observance of the day, and most states hold celebrations, according to the Associated Press. Juneteenth is a paid holiday for state employees in Texas, New York, Virginia, and Washington.
“I expect full support in the House this time around, now that we have had a chance to negotiate and figure out what they are comfortable with, and figure out what the Senate is comfortable with. We’re very close,” Bracy said.
He neither committed to sticking to his desire for a legal holiday nor conceding to the House’s request for the less-impressive day of observance. However, he did say, “I want to get something done.”