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Two Idaho Republicans want to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. Here’s why


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Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo, left, and Jim Risch, right. Both serve in the U.S. Senate as Republicans.

BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — Two Idaho senators have signed on to a bill that would make a day commemorating the end of slavery a federal holiday.

U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo and Sen. Jim Risch, both Republicans, announced support for bipartisan legislation making June 19, or Juneteenth, a federal holiday. African Americans and communities across the country have celebrated Juneteenth for 155 years.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in April 1863, legally freeing all enslaved peopled in the Confederate states — even though the proclamation couldn’t be enforced in the areas that remained under Confederate control. But some Black people were kept enslaved for months or years after the Confederate surrender in April 1865 ended the Civil War. June 19 marks the day the last group of enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, were informed of their freedom by Union troops.

“The period of slavery in America stained our nation’s promise of liberty and justice for all,” Crapo and Risch said in a joint release. “Juneteenth celebrates an end to this shameful period, recognizes the contributions of Black American culture and marks a renewed commitment to ensuring the reality of equality and opportunity for all Americans.”

Earlier this month, Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed a proclamation designating June 19 as Juneteenth National Freedom Day. Idaho, 45 other states and the District of Columbia all recognize Juneteenth.

The bill, S. 4019, comes after Juneteenth celebrations doubled as protests against the death of George Floyd, police brutality and systemic racism. As of June 25, 30 Democrats, 16 Republicans and two Independents support the bill. Senate Democrats had previously introduced similar legislation, according to Axios.