Despite Slow Push by States and Cities, the City of Kansas City and the Unified Governments of Wyandotte County will observes the holiday by being closed.
A year after Juneteenth became a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, most states have yet to enact Juneteenth legal holidays.
Kansas has recognized Juneteenth as a holiday since 2007, but it isn’t the kind of recognition that comes with paid day off. Again this year, Gov. Laura Kelly signed a proclamation recognizing Juneteenth, but that falls way short of what many in Kansas hope for.
Stacey Knoell, director of the Kansas African American Affairs Commission, said the financial impact of giving employees another paid off requires more than a recognition by the governor, it requires a change in statue approved by the Kansas legislature.
Juneteenth has been recognized in Missouri as Emancipation Day since 2003. Now the holiday comes with the closure of state offices.
Last year, Congress and President Joe Biden moved swiftly to make Juneteenth a national holiday. It was the first time the federal government had designated a new national holiday since approving Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983. Yet the move didn’t result in an automatic adoption from most states.
When President Joe Biden signed the holiday into federal law June 17, 2021, only a handful of states had Juneteenth holidays with paid time off for state employees. Since then, at least eight in the past year have elevated Juneteenth to paid state holidays.
That trend infuriates Black leaders and community organizers who view making Juneteenth a paid holiday the bare minimum state officials can do to help honor an often overlooked and ignored piece of American history.
“Juneteenth marks the date of major significance in American history. It represents the ways in which freedom for Black people have been delayed,” said Democratic Rep. Anthony Nolan, who is Black, while arguing in favor of making Junteenth a paid holiday in Connecticut on the House floor. “And if we delay this, it’s a smack in the face to Black folks.”
Juneteenth commemorates when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, in 1865, two months after the Confederacy had surrendered in the Civil War and about 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in Southern states.