CHICAGO (CBS) -- After previously arguing it would be too costly to do so, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday announced she now supports making Juneteenth an official city holiday, marking the end of slavery in the United States.
"Black people are inextricably tied to America's founding and foundation, making days like Juneteenth all the more important to observe. The Black Caucus and many other community orgs have pushed on this for years," the mayor wrote in a tweet. "That's why I am proud to announce that pending City Council approval, the City of Chicago will recognize Juneteenth as an official city holiday by 2022. Black history is American history."
The move, which requires City Council approval, would make June 19th the 13th official city holiday; along with New Year's Day, Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday, Abraham Lincoln's birthday, President's Day, Pulaski Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.
Juneteenth marks the anniversary of June 19, 1865, the day Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, with the news that the Civil War had ended and slavery had been abolished, freeing the last of the slaves still being held in the Confederacy, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
"Slavery might have officially ended in 1865, but we are still grappling with the vestiges of that original sin here today; from historic neighborhood disinvestment to institutionalized racism that holds our people back from realizing their God-given potential, just because of the color of their skin," Lightfoot said.
The mayor said most history books make only a passing reference, if any, to Juneteenth, and she said that must change.
"To erase the history of Juneteenth is not only a great disservice to Black folks, both here in Chicago and across the country, but a great disservice to our collective memory," she said. "I, like many others, didn't even know anything about Juneteenth until I was an adult. And that's because it has never been treated with the reverence that it should be."
Last summer, when the City Council voted to declare Juneteenth as a "day of observance" in Chicago, Lightfoot argued making it an official city holiday would be too costly, especially during the pandemic. Even supporters at the time acknowledged it would cost as much as $100 million to make Juneteenth an official city holiday, providing another paid day off for city workers.
Ald. Maria Hadden (49th), who was among several aldermen who were pushing to make Juneteenth a city holiday last year, thanked Lightfoot for her support.
"Justice and healing require truth. Juneteenth is about Black liberation, it's about Black freedom. Our city like our nation still has so much work to do to reckon with our past and current systemic racism," she said. "Some would have us ignore our history, gloss over it, in service to just moving on. They tell us that our calls to acknowledge the wrongs that we face are dividing us. But don't heed their call. Do not be silent, for there can be no healing without truth and reconciliation. As Ida B. Wells said, the way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them. Celebrating Juneteenth is an opportunity for us all to shine that light. Second, celebration can be an act of resistance."
Lightfoot's support for an official Juneteenth holiday in Chicago comes as Gov. JB Pritzker is expected to sign legislation this week making it an official state holiday.
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