Pending the governor’s signature, this June, North Dakota will officially recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday.
The state House voted 70 to 22 Tuesday to commemorate the June 19, 1865 emancipation of slaves in the United States. This comes after the Senate approved the bill by a vote of 44 to 3.
It wouldn’t be a legal holiday, meaning government offices will still be open. Community advocate Ernest Usher organized last June’s celebration in Minot, and he says today’s vote is a step forward for the state.
“It’s not about having a day off. For us, it’s about commemorating who during those time periods went through so much, and were relieved to know they could put their rakes down, put their hoes down, put their garden tools down, put the cotton down, put the rice down, and begin to build some kind of legacy for what I am reaping the benefits of today,” Usher said.
Before today, North Dakota was one of just three states in the country — South Dakota and Hawaii — that did not declare the day as a holiday or observance.