Kansas governor signs proclamation honoring Juneteenth

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FILE – This Feb. 18, 2005, file photo shows the original Emancipation Proclamation on display in the Rotunda of the National Archives in Washington. President Abraham Lincoln first issued the Emancipation Proclamation declaring all slaves free in Confederate territory on Sept. 22, 1862. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order Wednesday, June 17, 2020, recognizing Juneteenth as a paid holiday for state employees to commemorate the emancipation of slaves in the U.S. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

TOPEKA — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly took time to honor Juneteenth, a day that marks the last slaves in the United States learning they’d been freed, by signing a proclamation on Wednesday.

“Today’s proclamation and the spirit of Juneteenth serve as a reminder that, while we have come a long way in our efforts to promote equity and justice, there is work left to do,” Governor Kelly said. “As we celebrate the end of slavery in the United States and learn more about our nation’s history, Juneteenth is also an opportunity to recommit ourselves to making Kansas a better place for all to call home.”

The upcoming holiday takes place on Saturday, June 19, KSNT reported. Its goal is to celebrate the freedom of those who had been enslaved in the United States.

The proclamation states that the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed enslaved peoples living in the Confederacy, was enacted and took effect on January 1, 1863. It was not until over two years later, on June 19, 1865, that the news of this freedom finally reached enslaved people living in Galveston, Texas. This prompted the newly-freed people to celebrate, coining the day Emancipation Day, also known as Jubilee or Juneteenth.

This comes as a bill to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday has passed both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The bill now awaits President Biden’s signature.

Leaders like Dr. DeAngela Burns-Wallace, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Administration and Chief Information Technology Officer, and Stacey Knoell, Executive Director of the Kansas African American Affairs Commission, stressed the importance of celebrating the history of Juneteenth, while speaking at the governor’s event.

Governor Kelly was also joined by Norma Avery, President of the Topeka Family and Friends Juneteenth Celebration Corporation as she signed the proclamation. 

“We are trying to teach all kids and adults, what Juneteenth means, the importance of it, and why we celebrate it,” Avery said.

The group has hosted several community events in the days leading up to Juneteenth. On Friday, they plan to host a celebration concert at Evergy Plaza in downtown Topeka, and another event at Hillcrest Community Center and Park on Saturday.

For more information about upcoming events, click here.

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