The city of Tulsa and Tulsa County are following the federal government’s action by adopting Juneteenth — June 19 —as an official holiday, they said Monday afternoon.
According to tradition, Juneteenth marked the day in 1865 when a group of Black Americans in Texas learned they were no longer slaves. It was observed informally — most often with community picnics, ball games and music — for decades until the Lone Star State officially recognized it in 1980.
Today South Dakota is the only state that does not recognize Juneteenth to at least some degree. Oklahoma adopted it in 1994, but not as a paid holiday for state employees.
Juneteenth became a federal holiday earlier this year.
Phil Armstrong, interim executive director of Tulsa’s Greenwood Rising history center, said the city’s and county’s official recognition “is a power thing” that marks another milestone in the nation’s history.
“People are being awakened to so much of our rich history,” Armstrong said.
“We are at a place in 2021 when we can see the role that slavery had in American history. For all that this group of people endured, we are now free,” he said.
Monday’s news release said Juneteenth was included in a list of holidays approved recently by Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and was on a similar list approved Monday by the Tulsa County Commission.
The decision means city and county offices as well as county courts will be closed on June 19 next year.
“Juneteenth is an important day in our country’s history, and I’m glad we are able to celebrate freedom for all Americans in this way by joining Tulsa County in adding Juneteenth to our official holiday schedule,” Bynum said in the press release.
“This is a very important day in our history, and it’s only right that we ensure that our employees and citizens understand how seriously we feel about it,” said Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith.
“I am also thrilled that the city of Tulsa is formally acknowledging the importance of Juneteenth. Having both of us make Juneteenth a holiday shows just how truly important it is to celebrate and commemorate what this day stands for.”
Featured video: Lawmakers criticize President Trump for planning to hold Tulsa rally on Juneteenth