Honoring Juneteenth in Massachusetts

JUNE 19, 2021

Today marks the first officially recognized Juneteenth holiday in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and across the nation.

Juneteenth — also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day — recognizes the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, and in particular, this day in the year 1865 when slaves in Galveston, Texas were finally made aware of their freedom, some two months after the Civil War actually ended.

And while this day is a cause for celebration and reflection, we must also recognize that the defeat of the Confederacy didn't end the violent and pervasive oppression of Black and Brown people in our country. Even as leaders in both major parties took action this week to formally recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday, efforts are underway around the county to further disenfranchise Black Americans and People of Color, and a shockingly disproportionate number of Black men sit in American prisons, often for nonviolent crimes or "crimes" they didn't commit.

This week, I had the honor of standing alongside members of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus to witness the first-ever Juneteenth flag raising at the State House. We heard speeches from several Black leaders in the legislature and in our communities, including Rep. Bud Williams of Springfield, who last year successfully filed a budget amendment to make Juneteenth a holiday here in Massachusetts. I was honored to co-sponsor and vote in support of this amendment, which coincided with hard-fought efforts to pass basic police reforms in our state.

As we finally recognize Juneteenth as an official state and federal holiday, let us also commit to an intersectional racial justice agenda that includes reparations for slavery, redistribution of wealth, voting rights, decarceration, and a reallocation of funds away from the military and the police.

Especially for those of us who benefit from the privilege of being white, let us mark this holiday not only as a chance to listen and learn from our Black and Brown colleagues and constituents, but also as an opportunity to actively commit to the full range of policies that will advance the struggle for racial justice and Black Liberation.

Yours in service,

Rep. Mike Connolly