Lewiston adds Juneteenth as legal holiday for city government
LEWISTON – The city council voted unanimously on Tuesday to adopt Juneteenth as a public holiday for the city government.
The move comes after the holiday, celebrated on June 19, was recognized as a federal and state holiday in Maine earlier this year.
The holiday celebrates the end of slavery by marking the day slaves in Texas learned they were free on June 19, 1865, more than two years after the emancipation proclamation.
According to a memo from the city, Lewiston sought to recognize the vacations as part of its “ongoing efforts” for diversity, equity and inclusion.
Melissa Hue, director of diversity, equity and inclusion, told city officials on Tuesday that Juneteenth is the oldest national commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States.
While the Emancipation Proclamation became law in January 1863, civil war was still raging and it could not be enforced in places still under Confederate control.
“It took more than two years for about 250,000 Texan slaves to learn that the government had guaranteed their freedom,” Hue said in the note. “June marks the day that federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state by ensuring that all enslaved people are freed. It honors the end of slavery and remains a powerful reminder of how endurance, perseverance, courage and endurance directly impact change in the world.
Hue also said, “As we recognize this day, I encourage you to take the time to reflect, learn and better understand our past. To honor the struggles of black Americans, let’s take a minute to celebrate how far we’ve come so that we can prepare for the way we need to travel. “
Asked on Wednesday, Hue said she did not know how many municipalities in Maine had so far adopted Juneteen as a public holiday.
“I hope this just encourages other cities to take a look at their own personnel policies,” she said.
During Tuesday’s meeting, officials applauded the move and called attention to Hue’s new role in Lewiston. Hue was hired in August, becoming the city’s first director of diversity, equity and inclusion in the human resources department after the position was recommended by a previous DCI committee.
Councilor Alicia Rea said that a staff member “is focused on this work and education is so beneficial to this city”.
Councilor Caleb Roebuck said he only heard about Juneteenth about five years ago, showing the importance of education surrounding important commemorations like Juneteenth.
Lewiston man denies high-speed chase charges