N.H. Senate votes to recognize abolition of slavery with ‘Juneteenth’

  • The N.H. Senate convened Feb 21, 2019, to take up bills including Juneteenth, the recognition of the abolition of slavery. Ethan DeWitt—Ethan DeWitt

Monitor staff
Published: 2/21/2019 6:55:30 PM

New Hampshire took one step closer to recognizing “Juneteenth,” the commemoration of the abolition of slavery, after a unanimous vote in the state senate Thursday.

In a 24-0 vote, the chamber voted to pass Senate Bill 174, which would call on the state governor to issue an annual proclamation recognizing Juneteenth – sometimes called Emancipation Day – every June 19.

The commemoration recognizes the June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers entered Galveston, Texas after the surrender of Robert E. Lee in the Civil War, and informed residents that the slaves were all emancipation. The annual celebration of that event was started off by Texas in 1980; since then, most U.S. states have established the tradition.

Gov. Chris Sununu recognized the day last year, acting on recommendations of the Diversity and Inclusion Council formed earlier in the year. But the day has not been codified into state law.

Sponsored Sen. Melanie Levesque, the state’s first African-American senator, SB 174 would mandate an annual proclamation “to call on the citizens of New Hampshire to observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities commemorating the abolition of slavery.” The commemoration would not constitute a state holiday.

On Thursday, the vote sailed through with no discussion; it heads next to the New Hampshire House. But Levesque, the chamber’s first African American senator, hailed its passage.

“For slaves in America, July 4th was not the day they became free,” she Levesque said. “Juneteenth recognizes the day those slaves were finally no longer held in bondage and all Americans were considered free; I’m proud of today’s Senate vote to guarantee New Hampshire observes this historic day each year.”

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, 369-3307, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)

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