Juneteenth becomes Minnesota holiday

Gov. Tim Walz on Friday, Feb. 3, signed into law a bill establishing a Juneteenth holiday in Minnesota.

Gov. Tim Walz passes along a pen he used to sign a bill Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, making Juneteenth an official state holiday in Minnesota.
Alex Derosier / Forum News Service

ST. PAUL — Juneteenth, a day recognizing the end of slavery in the United States, is now an official state holiday in Minnesota.

Gov. Tim Walz on Friday, Feb. 3, signed into law a bill establishing June 19 as a holiday in Minnesota, which the state had symbolically recognized before but now has been cemented as an official paid holiday for state employees. Juneteenth has been recognized as a federal holiday since 2021, and Minnesota is the 26th state to establish the day as a paid holiday as well.

At the signing, House bill main author Rep. Ruth Richardson, Democratic-Farmer-Labor-Mendota Heights, said while establishing the holiday allows Minnesota to "celebrate a more inclusive freedom," there's more work to be done to realize equality in the state.

"It's an opportunity also for us to reflect on the fact that there is a promise that was made to us that all are created equal that we are still working to attain," Richardson said before the governor signed the bill into law. "So we have an opportunity here as we take this important step forward to also recognize that as Minnesota remains home to some of the worst disparities for Black people within the nation, that this is just a step in the right direction."

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced that a quarter-million slaves in the state were free. President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation more than two years earlier, but Texas was among the last Confederate territories to be brought under control by federal forces.


Texas has observed Juneteenth since 1980, though in recent years the holiday has become more prominent nationally. The federal government and several states moved to establish the holiday following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in 2020, which sparked a national reckoning on race and policing.

President Joe Biden signed a bill to designate Juneteenth as a federal holiday in 2021, the first year the holiday was officially observed nationally in the U.S. All states and the District of Columbia have commemorated or recognized Juneteenth, according to the Congressional Research Service, though fewer than half recognize it as a holiday. Eighteen states observed Juneteenth as a paid holiday as of mid-2022.

Rep. Ruth Richardson, DFL-Mendota heights, delivers remarks on the new Juneteenth holiday in Minnesota at a bill signing on Friday at the Minnesota Capitol.
Alex Derosier / Forum News Service

The conversation about a Juneteenth holiday in Minnesota started as early as 1996 when late state Rep. Richard Jefferson introduced a bill in the Legislature to recognize the day, said Richardson, who made a point in her speech to recognize the work of others that had come before her that made a Juneteenth holiday a reality.

This year's Juneteenth bill had bipartisan but not unanimous support. It passed the House Thursday night 126-1, and the Senate passed it 57-8 last week.

Before the Juneteenth bill, Walz also ceremonially signed into law the CROWN Act, which adds hairstyle protections to the state’s existing human rights statute. Natural hairstyles and textures would be specifically included in the Minnesota Human Rights Act, offering protections for “braids, locs and twists.” Walz had actually signed the bill into law earlier in the week.

Minnesota’s ethnic hairstyle protection legislation is part of a national movement to put such protections in state and federal law.

So far, nearly 20 other states have passed their own versions of the CROWN Act, the name of which is an acronym for “creating a respectful and open world for natural hair.” California was the first state to pass such a law in 2019, and the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a CROWN Act bill.

The move comes as many states across the U.S., including Minnesota’s neighbors, consider or enact legislation restricting puberty-blocking hormones and other treatments for transgender youth.
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Follow Alex Derosier on Twitter @xanderosier or email

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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