Decatur makes Juneteenth a paid holiday for city employees

The spot where an obelisk confederate monument once stodd on the courthouse grounds, is shown before a press conference occurs in reference to it in Decatur. DeKalb Superior Court Judge Clarence Seeliger declared the monument that was erected in 1908 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, to be a public nuisance that should be removed. JOHN AMIS FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION AJC FILE PHOTO
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The spot where an obelisk confederate monument once stodd on the courthouse grounds, is shown before a press conference occurs in reference to it in Decatur. DeKalb Superior Court Judge Clarence Seeliger declared the monument that was erected in 1908 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, to be a public nuisance that should be removed. JOHN AMIS FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION AJC FILE PHOTO

Juneteenth is now a paid holiday in Decatur, where Martin Luther King Jr. was sentenced to “chain gang” labor and where a Confederate obelisk stood for more than a century.

June 19, a holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S., will become Decatur’s 11th paid holiday each year. DeKalb County, where Decatur is the county seat, was among the first Georgia counties to make Juneteenth a paid holiday for county employees, starting in 2020.

The city is among several in metro Atlanta to make Juneteenth an official or paid holiday after it was made a federal holiday by President Joe Biden earlier this summer.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers said before the City Commission’s unanimous vote.

Private-sector businesses and state and local government employers generally aren’t required to give workers paid time off for federal holidays. Gov. Brian Kemp has recognized Juneteenth as a holiday but it wasn’t a paid day off for state employees this year.

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Decatur observes 10 other paid holidays: New Year’s Day, MLK Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, the Day after Thanksgiving, Christmas and one day designated by the City Manager. Assistant City Manager Teresa de Castro said the city manager typically makes the floating holiday an extra paid day off to extend one of the winter holidays, usually either Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve.

Any city employees required to work one of those holidays will receive compensatory time off or receive extra holiday pay.

Decatur was among multiple metro Atlanta cities that planned to hold its first Juneteenth celebration this summer, but the DeKalb County city canceled the event due to poor weather. It would have been hosted by the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights and was co-sponsored by the city.

ExploreJuneteenth 2021: Some metro cities leave behind racist past to mark the holiday for first time

Juneteenth 2021 also marked the one-year anniversary of the removal of the Confederate monument on the Decatur square. The 30-foot Confederate obelisk was removed on the night of June 18, 2020 in the middle of widespread protests against racism and police brutality. It was originally erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1908.

A different memorial now calls Decatur Square its home. In April 2021, a historic marker was erected to commemorate MLK’s arrest, “chain gang” sentencing and eventual release in 1960. The marker was the work of a group of Decatur High School student activists.