NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It was recently passed as a federal holiday and now the state will look to align with it. June 19, also known as Juneteenth, celebrates when slaves in Galveston, Texas were finally freed, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation took effect.
It’s a bill that sponsors say will educate generations of Tennesseans about the history of the quest for true freedom for Black Americans.
The legislation from Gov. Bill Lee to make Juneteenth a state holiday is going through the committee process.
“There’s a federal holiday there and in order to be consistent with that very important day in our country’s history we felt it important to have a state holiday as well,” Lee said.
The bill is being carried by House Democratic Minority Leader Karen Camper.
“I was really appreciative of him deciding it was important to not only observe the holiday but to make it an official day off and actually fund it in the budget,” Camper said.
The bill, recognizing the freeing of the last remaining slaves in the United States, underscores to Camper the need to recognize African-American experiences in America.
“To open your lens, your cultural lens wider than you may ever had to do before, and once you do that you have an opportunity to see things differently, have a deeper understanding and appreciation for everything that has contributed to the success of this country,” Camper said.
For this lifetime member of the NAACP and member of the US military, Rep. Camper sees the opportunity for education with the Juneteenth bill.
“It’s an educational opportunity to really give America and the state of Tennessee, the citizens, the opportunity to really learn what our people endured in this country and even with all of that have still remained patriotic to this country,” Camper said.
Camper reflects on the work of Opal Lee, known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth” for her advocacy in making the recognition what it is today.
“I reflected on her and her hard work and all the things that our people fought for in this country — all came to me all at once,” said Camper.
There are currently 11 state holidays in Tennessee.
Most state holidays come at a cost due to state employee compensation, and this one will be no different, costing Tennessee around $474,000 per year.