MISSISSIPPI LEGISLATURE

REGULAR SESSION 2005

By: Senator Willie Simmons      To: Education

SENATE BILL NO. _________

To establish the Mississippi Juneteenth Emancipation State Commission



SECTION 1. ESTABLISHMENT

There is established a commission to be known as the "Mississippi Juneteenth Emancipation State Commission" (in this bill referred to as the "Commission").

SEC. 2. FINDINGS

The Mississippi State Senate finds the following:

(1) Millions of Africans and their descendants were enslaved in the United States and the 13 American Colonies in the period 1619 through 1865. The American Colonies determined that economic benefit would be derived from the import of slave labor and forthwith became an active participant in the “Middle Passage” of American slaves to its shores.
(2) Upon their arrival in North America, Africans were considered chattel and thereby denied the privileges granted to other immigrants. Many of these ancestors of Americans and Mississippi citizens of African descent were sold into slavery in the state of Mississippi.
(3) Slavery was a grave injustice that caused African Americans to suffer enormous damages and losses, both material and intangible, including the loss of human dignity and liberty, frustration of careers and professional lives, and the long-term loss of income and opportunity.
(4) The agricultural resources of any nation are the backbone of its subsistence and for over 250 years, millions of unnamed Africans and American born black men, women and children provided the free labor that cultivated the fields from which Americans ate and were clothed, which allowed the dominant population to secure other interests. This is especially true for Mississippi, an agricultural state with a strong historic legacy of slavery.
(5) Slavery in the United States denied African Americans the fruits of their own labor and was an immoral and inhumane deprivation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, citizenship rights, and cultural heritage. Although the achievements of African Americans in overcoming the evils of slavery stand as a source of tremendous inspiration, the successes of slaves and their descendants do not overcome the failure of the Nation to grant their birthright of equality and the civil rights that safeguard freedom.
(6) Many African American slaves fought as valiant patriots in the wars that helped to preserve our national freedoms, knowing they would never be privileged to partake of the freedoms for which they fought.
(7) African American art, history, and culture reflect experiences of slavery and freedom, and continued struggles for full recognition of citizenship and treatment with human dignity, and there is inadequate presentation, preservation, and recognition of the contributions of African Americans within American society.
(8) There is a great need for building institutions to promote cultural understanding of African American heritage and further enhance racial harmony in Mississippi.
(9) It is proper and timely for the Mississippi State Legislature to recognize the "19th of June", June 19, 1865, "Juneteenth", as the historic day when the last group of slaves were informed of their freedom, to acknowledge the historic significance of the abolition of slavery, to express deep regret to African Americans, and to support reconciliation efforts.

SEC. 3. DUTY OF COMMISSION

The Commission shall:

1. Work in cooperation with the Mississippi Dept. of Education to develop model curriculum on teaching the history of slavery to freedom, through Juneteenth, in public schools.
2. Work in cooperation with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to educate and promote the history of slavery to freedom, through Juneteenth, throughout the state.
3. Work in cooperation with the Mississippi Development Authority (the economic development and tourism agency for the state of Mississippi) to promote and support tourism and business development of Juneteenth Celebrations and Festivals throughout the state of Mississippi.

SEC. 4. MEMBERSHIP

(a) NUMBER AND APPOINTMENT

The Commission shall be composed of 7 members appointed from among persons who are not officers or employees of any government, as follows:

(1) 1 member appointed by the Governor
(2) 1 member appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives
(3) 1 member appointed by the President of the Senate
(4) 1 member appointed by the Chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus representing the House of Representatives
(5) 1 member appointed by the Chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus representing the Senate
(6) 1 member appointed by the Chairman of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF)
(7) 1 member appointed by the State Director of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF)

(b) TERM OF OFFICE

(1) IN GENERAL

Of the members first appointed to the Commission by the Governor, the Chairman of the NJOF and the State Director of the NJOF, shall serve a term of three years and of the members first appointed by the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate and Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, shall serve a term of two years, and thereafter all members shall serve a term of three years.

(2) SPECIAL RULE

A member who is appointed to the Commission who becomes an officer or employee of a government may not continue as a member.

(c) VACANCIES

A vacancy in the Commission shall be filled in the manner in which the original appointment was made.

(d) CHAIRPERSON

The Chairperson of the Commission shall be elected by the members.

SEC. 5. DIRECTOR & STAFF

(a) DIRECTOR

The Commission will work in cooperation with the Executive Director of the Mississippi Development Authority for the appointment of a Director of the Commission who will be a staff person of the Mississippi Development Authority and whose responsibilities and duties shall be supervised by the Executive Director of the Mississippi Development Authority.

SEC. 6. POWERS OF COMMISSION

(a) MEETINGS

(1) IN GENERAL

The Commission shall meet at the call of the Chairperson.

(2) QUORUM

A majority of the members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum but a lesser number may hold meetings.

(b) HEARINGS AND SESSIONS

The Commission may, for the purpose of carrying out its duties, hold hearings, sit and act at times and places, take testimony, and receive evidence as the Commission considers appropriate.

(c) OBTAINING OFFICIAL DATA

The Commission may secure directly from any department or agency of the state of Mississippi information necessary to enable it to carry out its duties. Upon request of the Commission, the head of that department or agency shall furnish that information to the Commission.

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