Juneteenth observances growing amid racial unrest

With protests against racial inequities roiling the country, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday issued an executive order declaring Juneteenth a paid holiday for state employees this year.

Juneteenth – June 19 – is the date in 1865 that Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas, with the news that the Civil War had ended and the slaves were free. That was two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves, but until then the Union had not been strong enough in Texas to enforce the order, and multiple reasons have been given for the delay. That moment marked the end of slavery in America.

Over time, Juneteenth grew into a popular celebration of black history and culture.

This year, as anger over the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis has resulted in nationwide protests, Juneteenth is suddenly gaining public prominence.

In Boston, the Boston Business Journal reported that a small but growing number of businesses are giving their employees the day off this year.  They range from the small Boston technology start-up Knoq, which is giving employees part of the day off and holding a biweekly picnic with food from black-owned businesses, to the well-regarded law firms Foley Hoag and Nixon Peabody. Santander Bank will close its offices at noon on Friday.

The Business Journal said the move by the Boston companies follows announcements from major national companies like Twitter and Nike, who are giving their employees Juneteenth as a paid holiday this year. The National Football League plans to close for the day, and several teams (though not yet the Patriots) are taking the day as a holiday.

US Rep. Ayanna Pressley, the first black woman to represent the state in Congress, will headline the tenth annual Juneteenth Emancipation Observance in Massachusetts, run by the Boston Juneteenth Committee and the National Center of Afro-American Artists, which will be held virtually due to the coronavirus.

In the State House, a bill sponsored by Reps. Maria Robinson, a Framingham Democrat, and Bud Williams, a Springfield Democrat, would make Juneteenth Independence Day an official state holiday. The bill was newly introduced and has not yet been assigned a formal bill number.

The Boston Globe reported that a trio of Boston city councilors, including Council President Kim Janey, are pushing to make Juneteenth a citywide holiday. The council officially recognized Juneteenth through a resolution on Wednesday.

“It is imperative that we as a City recognize the injustices this nation has forced upon Black people the past 400 years and how this history has laid the foundation for the systemic racism and inequalities we see today,” Janey, who is black, said in a statement, according to the Globe.

The last major holiday added in the United States was Martin Luther King Day, celebrating the birth of the black civil rights leader, which was created by federal law in 1986 but was not celebrated by all 50 states until 2000.

Will Juneteenth be next?

SHIRA SCHOENBERG


BEACON HILL

Some lawmakers say they feel locked out of Gov. Charlie Baker’s reopening process. (Gloucester Daily Times)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

In dueling protests, Black Lives Matter demonstrators and police supporters faced off in West Roxbury yesterday. (Boston Herald)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

A group of advocates — including former Holyoke Soldiers’ Home superintendent John Barabani — are launching a website and campaign to push for more funding and upgrades to the veterans facility. (MassLive)

Hundreds of people were tested Wednesday on the Cape for the first of two days of free coronavirus testing offered in the wake of recent large gatherings of protesters. (Cape Cod Times) Do states have enough contact tracers to stop another coronavirus outbreak? (NPR)

Mass General Brigham — the new name for Partners HealthCare — will cut pay for top executives and freeze salaries for others as it deals with $800 million in losses during the coronavirus pandemic. (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help him win reelection by buying lots of US grain, according to the memoir by former national security advisor John Bolton. (Washington Post) Bolton also says Trump did not seem to know Great Britain was a nuclear power and once asked whether Finland was part of Russia. (New York Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Work-from-home may become the new normal for lots of employees even after the pandemic passes. (Boston Globe)

A Swampscott restaurant owner banned a local Select Board member from his restaurant after the Select Board member – who says he was misunderstood – was overheard there making comments critical of Black Lives Matter. (The Salem News)

There will be no craps, roulette, or poker when casinos first reopen in Massachusetts. (MassLive)

Investors are poised to close on a deal to acquire 25 acres of land in Widett Circle, the area off the Southeast Expressway touted as a possible site for Boston’s short-lived 2024 Olympic dreams. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

MIT expects fewer than 60 percent of undergraduates to be on campus in September and plans to end all in-person classes for the semester at Thanksgiving. (Boston Globe)

ARTS/CULTURE

The Peabody Essex Museum lays off 15 percent of its staff. (WBUR)

A change.org petition calling for the replacement of the Christopher Columbus statue in the North End with the giant T-rex overlooking Route 1 in Saugus gets 6,000 signatures. (Daily Item)

TRANSPORTATION

Jamey Tesler is appointed as the new registrar of motor vehicles, after holding that position on an interim basis for nearly a year. (MassLive)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The state has worked out an agreement with the new owner of the shuttered Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station to provide financial, environmental and public safety protections as the plant is decommissioned and the site cleaned up. (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The Essex County jail will begin giving inmates tablets with pre-screened apps that they can use to make phone calls and email family and friends, as the jail eliminated visits due to COVID-19. (The Salem News) The Berkshire County Jail is doing something similar with video visits,. (Berkshire Eagle)

Amid a focus on police budgets and calls to divert funding to other uses, public records show dozens of Boston police officers earn more than $300,000. (Boston Globe)

Police on the North Shore, like elsewhere in the state, are being inundated with calls about illegal fireworks. (The Salem News)

Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi asks the courts to let him use GPS monitoring for inmates who are released early due to COVID-19. (MassLive)

David MacDonald, the chief of the Newton Police says he will be retiring. This comes about two weeks after Tim Duncan, the athletic director at the University of New Orleans, said Newton police stopped him and his wife at gunpoint outside of their home in Newton just days before police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis. There was no mention of Duncan in MacDonald’s retirement announcement. (WGBH)

South Shore police departments see a surge in support amid calls for reform. (Patriot Ledger)

MEDIA

WBUR will lay off 29 people. (Boston Business Journal)

President Trump’s pick to head the US Agency for Global Media (Voice of America etc.) sidelines or fires many of the agency’s top staffers. (NPR)

Northeastern University president Joseph Aoun, whose school boasts a robust journalism program, hasn’t given an interview to the campus student newspaper in years, a snub that student journalists are publicly calling him out on. (Boston Globe)

PASSINGS

Jean Kennedy Smith, the last surviving sibling of President John F. Kennedy died at age 92 in her Manhattan home. (Boston Globe)