Juneteenth Day official city holiday; Mayor Johnson signs ordinance

Milwaukee always goes big for Juneteenth with parades and a street festival, but now, June 19 is an official city holiday.

Mayor Cavalier Johnson signed an ordinance Monday, Sept. 26 to make it official, joining with the federal government and about half the states in formally marking June 19 as a holiday honoring of the end of slavery in the United States.

Under this ordinance, city offices will be closed each year on June 19, and employees will receive a paid day off.

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"Recognition of June 19 is important," said Mayor Johnson. "It's a celebration. It also ends a horrific chapter in American history."  

Juneteenth marks the day enslaved Black people in Texas learned they were finally free in 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

"Slavery and its impacts have had a devastating effect on African Americans and on our society for generations," said Mayor Johnson.

Milwaukee's Common Council unanimously approved the legislation. Alderwoman Milele Coggs was a driving force behind it.

"My sincere hope is, beyond June 19, people reflect from this history, learn from this history, and I'm thankful we, as a city, will recognize Juneteenth in a greater way," said Coggs.

This now holiday is part of the fabric of Milwaukee, which has one of the oldest and largest Juneteenth celebrations.

"It's a beautiful moment in time," said Clayborn Benson, Wisconsin Black Historical Society.

Cities across the country, the federal government and at least 24 states have made Juneteenth an official holiday. 

"All of this is good, and it's beginning to happen now with this new resurgence of identity towards Juneteenth Day," said Benson.

With this recognition, starting in 2023, city offices will close on June 19.

"Juneteenth is a time for all people, all people to celebrate," said Mayor Johnson.