Milwaukee Community Journal
Juneteenth Day: State's official day of Jubilee!
Gov. Doyle: Signs bill to make Juneteenth Day a legal holiday


Juneteenth Signing
Joined by (from left to right) State Rep. Tamara Grigsby, State Sen. Spencer Coggs,
Northcott Neighborhood House executive director Mac Weddle, National Chairman of
Juneteenth Day Rev. Ronald Myers, M.D. and many other supporters, Gov. Jim Doyle
signs into law Senate Bill 170, designating Juneteenth Day as a legal holiday in the
state of Wisconsin.

(photo by Harry Kemp)

Juneteenth Signing
Joined by (from left to right) Mac Weddle, executive director of the Northcott House and local
president of Juneteenth Day, stands behind memories from previous Juneteenth celebrations.

(photo by Harry Kemp)

Milwaukee Community Journal
Complide by MCJ Staff     Decemeber 2, 2009


(Milwaukee, WI) - To claps and cheers, Gov. Jim Doyle signed a bill recognizing Juneteenth as a legal holiday in the state of Wisconsin.

The governor was joined by the Rev. Ronald Myers, Sr., M.D., National Chairman of Juneteenth Day, and Mac Weddle, the executive director of the Northcott Neighborhood House and local president of Juneteenth Day, for the signing at Northcott Neighborhood Center in Milwaukee.

“Milwaukee has long celebrated Juneteenth Day and I am proud that Wisconsin is moving forward to recognize this important holiday across the state,” Governor Doyle said. “Juneteenth Day marks a historic milestone in our nation’s history and celebrates the freedom that unites all Americans.”

Senate Bill 170 designates June 19, Juneteenth Day, as a legal holiday. The designation prohibits elections from being held on June 19, but the new law doesn't affect the number of paid holidays of public employees.

Senators Spencer Coggs and Lena Taylor and Representatives Tamara Grigsby and Leon Young worked on the passage of the bill.

In October, the Wisconsin State Senate passed SB170, sponsored by State Senator Spencer Coggs, with the House of Representatives concurring with the passage of HB 240, recognizing the annual observance of Juneteenth Independence Day as a legal holiday in the state.

Wisconsin becomes the 32nd state to recognize Juneteenth Day as a legal holiday, which was first celebrated in Milwaukee in the 1970s.

“This is another significant development in our campaign to establish Juneteenth as a National Day of Observance in America,” states Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D., Chairman of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF). “As more states like Wisconsin pass Juneteenth legislation, we hope that President Barack Obama will finally establish Juneteenth as a National Holiday Observance by issuing a Presidential Proclamation.”

Adding, “Now that Juneteenth is a state holiday in Wisconsin, I will request that Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) will co-sponsor legislation in the U.S. Senate to make Juneteenth a National Day of Observance in 2010, by lead sponsor Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL),” he said.

Myers noted thousands of petitions have been forwarded to the White House urging President Obama to make Juneteenth a National Day of Observance and to establish a Presidential National Juneteenth Commission.

A Milwaukee native with fond memories of honoring Juneteenth, Myers began his efforts to make Juneteenth a national holiday 15 years ago, as he pressed Congress to enact legislation.

“The official recognition of Juneteenth Independence Day and the end of enslavement by state governments and Congress are very significant steps in bringing healing to America from the legacy of enslavement,” he said.

Juneteenth Day is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, slaves in Texas first received word that all slaves in the U.S. had been freed by President Lincoln.

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