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Council votes to make Juneteenth a paid holiday for Jacksonville city workers

Members of the Jacksonville City Council voted Tuesday 16-2 in favor of making Juneteenth a paid holiday for city workers. Juneteenth, which is June 19, is the traditional commemoration date of the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed legislation making it a U.S. federal holiday.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Members of the Jacksonville City Council voted Tuesday 16-2 in favor of making Juneteenth a paid holiday for city workers.

Juneteenth, which is June 19, is the traditional commemoration date of the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed legislation making it a U.S. federal holiday.

Council members Rory Diamond and Al Ferraro were the “no” votes.

“It’s literally millions of dollars thrown away today, and that’s crazy to me for a public holiday. But certainly celebrate Juneteenth. I’m all about it,” Diamond said.

“I fully support doing something for Juneteenth. I just don’t know if giving a paid holiday to employees is celebrating Juneteenth,” Ferraro said. “Right now, the way I’m looking at it, I can’t support this bill.”

Brian Hughes, chief of staff for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, was called up to explain the costs associated.

“The cost of any day of the year, as a cost of employees, is $1.8 million. So that is budgeted for, regardless,” Hughes said.

“This is a very important day,” said Councilwoman Randy DeFoor. “And what I wish we had an opportunity to do was to look at all the holidays and see if Columbus Day or some of the other -- maybe we need to identify what days are really most important to us, as a community and give those days, the attention and the payroll. I’m going to support it today, but I hope next year we look at our holidays. Because it is a day or no services are going to be given to our citizens. And let me tell you, they’re working.”

“Why not?” said Councilman Matt Carlucci. “This is such a huge day in history in the fabric of our country. It was the right thing to do in Jacksonville.”

Local activists applauded the decision, including Ben Frazier -- president of the Jacksonville Northside Coalition.

“I think that the city’s support of the Juneteenth commemoration is definitely a step in the right direction,” Frazier said.

“It’s a good first step, but we want to see more progress and more change,” said Monique Sampson with the Jacksonville Community Action Committee. “I’m talking about hiring more Black contractors. I’m talking about taking down racist statues. We have a lot of things here in Jacksonville that we have to work towards.”

The holiday also has been called Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day. President Abraham Lincoln first issued the Emancipation Proclamation declaring all slaves free in Confederate territory on Sept. 22, 1862, but the news took time to travel. June 19, 1865, is the date when word of the proclamation reached African Americans in Texas.

Florida has not established Juneteenth as an official state holiday. In the city of Miami, Juneteenth is a paid holiday for city workers. It is not one in Tampa or Orlando.


About the Authors:

This native of the Big Apple joined the News4Jax team in July 2021.