COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A state senator from Richland County wants Juneteenth to become an official holiday in South Carolina.
Juneteenth, which is celebrated annually on June 19, marks the day in 1865 when the last slaves in the south, who were in Texas, found out they were free.
In South Carolina, Juneteenth was designated a “Special Day” in 2008. The resolution made June 19, a day of reflection and commemoration of the freedom of African-Americans and their contributions to this country.
But State Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Richland, wants to take it a step further.
“This recognition of a holiday is to say, ‘Look how far we’ve gone not only as a people but as a nation.‘”
By making Juneteenth a state holiday, Jackson said state offices could close and the day could also be officially observed by public schools and universities.
Sen. Jackson said now is the best time to discuss this potential change.
“I think, in this moment in time particularly, it’s important to acknowledge African American history in our state” Jackson said. “South Carolina has a long, painful history of slavery and racial discrimination, as well as a record of honoring the Confederacy with monuments and other official gestures. It’s time to shift the narrative away from idolizing racist slave owners and toward recognizing the accomplishments African Americans have made in the face of enormous adversity.”
Right now, there are 13 state holidays in South Carolina.
Confederate Memorial Day is currently a legal state holiday in South Carolina, as well as New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, President’s Day, National Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day and the day after, Christmas and Dec. 24 and 26.
According to the South Carolina Department of Administration, the cost of a state holiday is approximately $12,599,529.52. They said right now there are currently 62,245 state employees in full-time equivalent positions.
Jackson said he’ll file the legislation pushing for Juneteenth to become a state holiday next week and next year at the beginning of the new session in January. He hopes to have bipartisan support.
“I’d like to build a coalition of Republicans, Democrats, blacks, whites, to come together and support this legislation,” he said.
We reached out to other lawmakers and they said they would like to do more research first and see the bill before commenting on legislation.
Other states, like New York and Virginia, have recently taken similar steps. Target also announced it would recognize Juneteenth as a company holiday.