Juneteenth isn’t a state holiday in New Hampshire; it’s an observance day

  • FILE - People attend Juneteenth celebrations in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, on June 19, 2021. Recognition of Juneteenth, the effective end of slavery in the U.S., gained traction after the police killing of George Floyd in 2020. But after an initial burst of action, the movement to have it recognized as an official holiday in the states has largely stalled. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, File) Eduardo Munoz Alvarez

Monitor staff
Published: 6/18/2022 12:09:31 PM
Modified: 6/18/2022 12:09:11 PM

Although Juneteenth is the newest federal holiday, created last year to honor the end of slavery in this country 159 years ago, it  isn’t a holiday in New Hampshire. It’s an observance.

Many days are observances that have been created by the state legislature over the years, as Anna Brown of Citizens Count wrote in a 2021 article. That includes the second Saturday in June, which is “Pollyanna of Littleton New Hampshire Recognition Day.”

Unlike the 10 federal holidays and state-recognized Election Day, New Hampshire observances don’t close state offices or public schools. They carry no obligation at all but merely “urge” people to recognize the issue at hand. Individuals and private businesses are, of course, free to celebrate as they wish.

The New Hampshire legislature overwhelmingly added June 19 as Juneteenth to the list of observances in 2019, through RSA 4:13-aa. This holiday commemorates the June 19, 1865, announcement of freedom from slavery in Texas, some 2½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth celebrations have been held in many African American communities since the 1800s.

Almost every state recognizes Juneteenth in some fashion, the Associated Press reported, but many have done little more than issue a proclamation or resolution.

Texas was the first state to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday, back in 1980; Massachusetts was the second but not until 2007. Fifteen states now make it an official state holiday.

The lack of official state holidays has drawn criticism from Black leaders and community organizers who view making Juneteenth a paid holiday an obvious step to help note an often overlooked piece of American history.

“Juneteenth marks the date of major significance in American history,” said Democratic Rep. Anthony Nolan, who is Black, while arguing in favor of making Juneteenth a paid holiday in Connecticut on the House floor. “And if we delay this, it’s a smack in the face to Black folks.”

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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