Bill to enshrine Juneteenth as Minnesota holiday passes first chamber

The Minnesota Senate passed a bill Thursday that will recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States.

On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers read the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, Texas, more than two months after the Civil War ended. President Abraham Lincoln signed the document in 1863.

The Minnesota Senate approved the bill 57-8 on Thursday, and it is now in the House’s hands. If it becomes law, Juneteenth will be the 12th state holiday.

Grassroots efforts to gain wider observance of the holiday have gained traction in recent years, and in 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has signed proclamations each year observing Juneteenth, even though it was not classified as an official state holiday. DFL lawmakers have introduced bills in the past, but they failed to pass the Legislature.

“Contrary to popular belief among some legislators, I am not a king and can do whatever I want as governor,” Walz said while introducing a proclamation in 2021. “So while I would like to, I cannot make Juneteenth a state holiday, but I can make a proclamation naming today Juneteenth Freedom Day across the state of Minnesota.”

Several local governments and school districts around the state already recognize the holiday, as do a number of Minnesota-based companies such as Best Buy, U.S. Bank and Target.