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Gov. Polis signs bill making Juneteenth a state holiday

 State Sen. Janet Buckner speaks at the state Capitol about a bill she sponsored to make Juneteenth an official state holiday.
Scott Franz/Capitol Coverage
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State Sen. Janet Buckner speaks at the state Capitol about a bill she sponsored to make Juneteenth an official state holiday.

Juneteenth will be observed as an official state holiday for the first time next month. State Rep. Leslie Herod says she wants Coloradans to celebrate the rich culture of Black people in the state.

“We are an integral part of the fabric of America, and this is that celebration,” Herod said last month when she introduced the bill to make Juneteenth the 11th state holiday. “I think it’s time to reflect on what liberation truly means, what freedom really means and how it’s not easily accessible to everyone just because we have that word in our Constitution.”

Juneteenth marks the anniversary of June 19, 1865, when Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to tell hundreds of thousands of enslaved people they were free.

Herod said many of the Black Americans who left Texas at that time moved to Colorado.

“They founded towns like Breckenridge, and in fact, at that time, one in four cowboys in Colorado were actually Black,” she said.

Herod said the effort to make Juneteenth a state holiday initially got some pushback at the statehouse because of a lack of money to pay for it.

“That was something that was a pretty big hurdle,” she said.

The state’s Legislative Black Caucus led the effort to pass the bill. Sponsors said Monday’s bill signing ceremony was a day to celebrate.

“We hope that everybody reflects on the battle for equity, the battle for freedom,” Gov. Jared Polis said. “Commemorating this holiday really has us look at our history, but it also gives us a chance to look forward and continue the fight for freedom and equity for dignity, for everyone. Our state’s diversity is one of our greatest strengths.”

Copyright 2022 KUNC. To see more, visit KUNC.

Scott Franz is a government watchdog reporter and photographer from Steamboat Springs. He spent the last seven years covering politics and government for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, a daily newspaper in northwest Colorado. His reporting in Steamboat stopped a police station from being built in a city park, saved a historic barn from being destroyed and helped a small town pastor quickly find a kidney donor. His favorite workday in Steamboat was Tuesday, when he could spend many of his mornings skiing untracked powder and his evenings covering city council meetings. Scott received his journalism degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is an outdoorsman who spends at least 20 nights a year in a tent. He spoke his first word, 'outside', as a toddler in Edmonds, Washington. Scott visits the Great Sand Dunes, his favorite Colorado backpacking destination, twice a year. Scott's reporting is part of Capitol Coverage, a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.