Rock Island recognizes Juneteenth as an official holiday

Rock Island will officially recognize June 19 as Juneteenth after the city council unanimously voted to approve the day as an official city holiday at its June 10 meeting. 

“It’s important to recognize Juneteenth as a day of historical and cultural significance for Black Americans” Mayor Mike Thoms said in a news release. “Rock Island is a city with a large, diverse population and we acknowledge the past while working together toward a better future. The Juneteenth holiday celebrates the independence and freedom of all Americans.”

Juneteenth became a federal holiday on June 17, 2021. 

Despite the end of the Civil War in April 1865, and implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation, not all enslavers in Confederate states freed or informed those still in captivity of their freedom. On June 19, 1865, the Union Army marched into Galveston, Texas, and announced that all enslaved people were free.

“The decision to recognize Juneteenth is not a way to get a day off,” said Jerry Jones, the executive director of Rock Island’s Martin Luther King Center. “It is a strategic and systemic decision to keep an American tragedy in our consciousness so that we can work for the healing that still needs to occur in our city, state and country. It is a decision to continue to strive for a more just city.”

City Manager Todd Thompson said the designation of Juneteenth represents Rock Island’s commitment to equality and inclusion. “It is a day to reflect on our history and honor the endurance and struggle of so many,” he added.

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