Cincinnati city workers are celebrating one more holiday this year.
During the June 15 Cincinnati City Council meeting, council members unanimously passed a resolution making Juneteenth a holiday. Juneteenth is June 19 and falls on a Sunday this year, so city workers will observe the holiday on Monday, June 20.
Juneteenth celebrates the 1865 day in which Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas with the news that enslaved Black people were now free and that the Civil War had finally ended — two and a half years after U.S. President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
But things didn't immediately get better, said Victoria Parks, council president pro tem. In other states – including northern states not in the Confederacy – Black citizens remained under the power of white men.
"The people, they learned that they were free and they claimed their freedom. It was, indeed, a day to celebrate," Parks said. "However, it would be six more months before the 13th Amendment was ratified, before all enslaved people in America were free."
"If you were a slave in the South but not in a Confederate state, you were still a slave, even after the Emancipation Proclamation," Parks said.
Despite the long history of slavery in the British colonies in North America, and the continued existence of slavery in America until 1865, the amendment was the first explicit mention of the institution of slavery in the U.S. Constitution.The United States did not ratify the 13th Amendment of the Constitution outlawing chattel slavery and indentured servitude until Dec. 6, 1865.
While America’s founding fathers enshrined the importance of liberty and equality in the nation’s founding documents—including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution—they conspicuously failed to mention slavery, which was legal in all 13 colonies in 1776.
Many of the founders themselves owned enslaved workers, and though they acknowledged that slavery was morally wrong, they effectively pushed the question of how to eradicate it to future generations of Americans.
The U.S. Congress finally recognized Juneteenth as a federal holiday in 2021. It became the first federal holiday approved since 1983, when Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established.
The Juneteenth flag will be raised outside Cincinnati City Hall (801 Plum St., Downtown) at 1 p.m. June 17. The ceremony will include dance and music performances, a release from interim city manager John Curp's office says.
"It is such a great honor to serve with a council and a mayor that at every opportunity want to see justice and equality run rampant through the city of Cincinnati. So thank you to my colleagues for sponsoring this," said council member Scotty Johnson.
The Juneteenth flag also is flying at the Hamilton County Courthouse after a June 15 ceremony. Hamilton County declared Juneteenth a holiday for county workers in 2020.
A number of jurisdictions, businesses and organizations have held Juneteenth events throughout the month, with more to come during the weekend.
"This weekend, there will be events all around the city where people, no matter our color, our creed, no matter where we come from or who we love, come together and celebrate the enduring promise of our country – that all are created equal and we have the right for the pursuit of happiness," Parks said. "So with that, I say happy Juneteenth Day."
Watch the June 15 Cincinnati City Council meeting.