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Groups lobby for national Juneteenth Day

The Associated Press
Friday August 17, 2001



LOS ANGELES — Groups pushing to make Juneteenth a national holiday are meeting in Southern California to get the word out about the historic day commemorating an end to slavery. 

The fourth annual National Juneteenth Convention and Expo will take place in Ontario on Friday and Saturday. 

The convention will serve to “educate the country of the significance of Juneteenth,” said Ronald Myers, founder of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation.  

“The agenda will include a discussion of how to respond to the Bush administration’s lack of participation and support for Juneteenth.” 

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day a Union Army general went to Galveston, Texas, to inform the last slaves there that they were free – more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. 

Last June, President Bush issued a greeting observing the day and encouraging “all Americans to learn more about the role of African-Americans in U.S. history,” but convention organizers say they want more. 

Ken Liasius, a spokesman for the White House Office of Public Liaison, said there is nothing Bush can do without action from Congress. 

Juneteenth is observed in about 200 cities nationwide and is an official holiday in Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Delaware, Idaho and Alaska. Dozens of other states have legislators who have either introduced or plan to introduce resolutions or bills acknowledging Juneteenth, Myers said, adding that California is on the list. 

Assemblyman John Longville, D-Rialto, plans to introduce a resolution recognizing Juneteenth when the Legislature meets later this month.  

He said he also will sponsor a bill next year to make Juneteenth an official unpaid holiday. 

“It is a significant date that has gotten a lot of attention over the years,” he said. “Over the last decade more people have become aware ... at first it wasn’t widely appreciated. 

Although it is important for individual states to recognize the day, Myers said, his group’s main push is to make it a national holiday. 

“Our nation needs healing from all that slavery has inflicted on generations of Americans,” he said.  

“Surely, as the former governor of Texas, where it has been observed as a paid state holiday since 1980, you would think President Bush is aware of the importance of Juneteenth.”