Governor Laura Kelly announced in a press release that Kansas will recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday. Juneteenth celebrates June 19, 1865, the day the last enslaved Americans were told that then-President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation to abolish slavery.
“Juneteenth marks a significant point our nation’s history and has long been celebrated in Kansas and across the United States,” Kelly said. “Establishing Juneteenth as a state holiday provides Kansans an opportunity to celebrate our state’s diversity and honor the ongoing struggles for racial equality.”
Grace Hoge, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Governor, said the holiday will be applicable to executive branch employees under the governor’s jurisdiction. This means state agency staff and the governor’s office will have the day off.
Juneteenth became America’s newest federal holiday in 2021. The holiday has also been recognized as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day and Jubilee Day.
“I am thrilled that Juneteenth will be a state holiday,” said Stacey Knoell, Executive Director of the Kansas African American Affairs Commission. “This day is a perfect example of the importance of learning the full picture of history, not to cast blame but to find reasons for acknowledging resilience. I hope this day can become one where Kansans can unite in celebration.”
Kansas has marked Juneteenth celebrations in Topeka and Manhattan since it began to be recognized at the federal level. Some have criticized the newly created holiday, with GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy calling Juneteenth “useless.”