City to Recognize Juneteenth as Official Holiday

City to Recognize Juneteenth as Official Holiday
Posted on 06/19/2020
City to Recognize Juneteenth as Official HolidayThe City of Columbia is taking meaningful action to focus on community unity by recognizing Juneteenth as a city holiday beginning in 2021. This announcement was made at the Fairview Park Historical Marker Unveiling Ceremony on Juneteenth at Fairview Park. City Council plans to approve this measure at the next council meeting to be held July 9, 2020, declaring Juneteenth an official holiday for Columbia. 

City Manager Tony Massey, City Councilman Tony Greene, along with the remaining City Council and Mayor Molder worked diligently to implement this significant holiday, as it serves historical importance and represents the resilience and determination of the African American community. This thoughtful discussion began between Massey and Greene as a way city government could take action and do something positive within the community. This holiday is one of great importance to the community, paying tribute to the journey and acknowledging the many roles and contributions of the African American community to society.

City Councilman Tony Greene stated, “We can only reach our true potential with a strong bond of unity and an unyielding respect for one other. I am truly honored and humbled to announce that the City of Columbia will make Juneteenth an official holiday for the city. We will be the first city in Tennessee to do so. I plan on making the motion at our July 9th City Council meeting to make it official.” Greene shared an important quote from Maya Angelou, “It’s sad but true that sometimes we need tragedy to help us see how human we are and how we are more alike than we are different.”

“The City of Columbia is honored to be the first city in Tennessee to officially recognize Juneteenth as a city holiday. Juneteenth is a significant date in American history and we want to implement this holiday to bring the community together. We are recognizing history and we are making history,” said City Manager Tony Massey. 

Even though the Emancipation Proclamation was made effective in 1863, it could not be implemented in places still under Confederate control. As a result, in the westernmost Confederate state of Texas, enslaved people would not be free until much later. Freedom finally came on June 19, 1865, when some 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas. The army announced that the more than 250,000 enslaved black people in the state, were free by executive decree. This day came to be known as "Juneteenth," by the newly freed people in Texas. (National Museum of African American History and Culture, 2019, para. 2).

Mayor Chaz Molder stated, “I firmly believe Columbia can, and should be a leader in this state, and country when it comes to race relations. We are a city of unity and compassion, a city of understanding and resolve. We have significant historical events in our city that we can learn from and grow stronger, and we have the leadership now willing to make bold steps. Recognizing Juneteenth as an official city holiday in Columbia is just a first step of moving forward in a positive direction, and being a trailblazer for all the world to see.” 

“The opportunity to have the City of Columbia implement an official Juneteenth holiday is priceless,” said Vice Mayor Dr. Christa Martin. “To leave a legacy of that magnitude in honor of the freeing of the slaves brings to my mind Jeremiah 29:11, For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. When you study history and find out that the slaves and owners in Galveston, Texas did not know until June 19, 1865 that President Lincoln had declared the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, it makes you pause.” 

Today, Juneteenth celebrations represent African American freedom and achievement. The events on June 19, 1865 set the precedent initiating more national and symbolic meaning and recognition for this national day of pride. Juneteenth is rapidly growing within communities and organizations throughout the country. 

Elder H. Paco Havard, President of the Maury County Branch of the NAACP, expressed his support and regards for this powerful decision to establish Juneteenth as a city holiday, recalling a quote from Father Nelson Mandela “For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”