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DeKalb to consider making Juneteenth a paid county holiday

Juneteenth commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States.

DeKalb County officials will consider making Juneteenth a paid, annual holiday for county employees.

Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson announced the proposal during a Tuesday morning meeting. It will be considered by a county committee before the full commission votes on it during a future meeting.

Juneteenth, celebrated every June 19, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. The holiday dates back to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news that enslaved people were free — more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.

Now, Juneteenth is considered the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery in the country.

“Racism discrimination and violence against African Americans have persisted in the United States,” Johnson said.

Making Juneteenth a holiday would give DeKalb County employees a day off each July 19. The commissioner said the county can “combat racism with acknowledgement of the often neglected but important history” surrounding the end of slavery.

The holiday took on greater significance this year, amid a national reckoning over race, racism and police violence. Several corporations treated Juneteenth as a company holiday.

Juneteenth has not been designated as a federal holiday. Most states have commemorated Juneteenth as an official or ceremonial holiday in some way. In 2011, Georgia became the 37th state to recognize Juneteenth, though it is not an official state holiday. This year, the governors of Virginia and New York signed orders making Juneteenth a paid day off for state employees.

This year, Marietta and Doraville both formally recognized Juneteenth for its historical significance, but did not vote to make it a municipal holiday.

Johnson said DeKalb, which is majority Black, can “lead the way” in making Juneteenth a holiday.

Officials in South Fulton recently voted to make Juneteenth a city holiday, the city announced Tuesday.

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