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St. John the Baptist Parish declares Juneteenth an official holiday

Parish President Jaclyn Hotard proclaimed Friday, June 19, as "Juneteenth Independence Day" during a special council meeting Wednesday.

ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH, La. — In what parish leaders called a "historic" move, St. John the Baptist Parish has declared Juneteenth, the day commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, as a parish holiday.

Parish President Jaclyn Hotard proclaimed Friday, June 19, as "Juneteenth Independence Day" during a special council meeting Wednesday. The council then unanimously declared Juneteenth an official holiday.

"We wanted to formally recognize Juneteenth and purposefully honor its place of historic significance," Hotard said. "In St. John, we are committed to ensuring our Parish promotes the inclusion of all history and encourages the celebration of Juneteenth by the community."

Parish offices will be closed Friday, June 19 due to the holiday. A public March For Justice and Freedom has also been scheduled for 8 a.m. Friday starting at the Home Depot in LaPlace and ending at the Percy Hebert Building.

"We are asking all of our residents and parish leaders to come together and commemorate this special day," Council Chairman Lennix Madere said.

The June 19 holiday commemorates the ending of slavery in the U.S. The Emancipation Proclamation that freed all slaves was issued by President Abraham Lincoln in January of 1863. However, it took much longer for the news to spread. So, this news didn't reach slaves in Galveston, Texas until June 19, 1865. Union General Gordon Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation to African-Americans. 

St. John the Baptist Parish joins a growing wave of businesses and organizations to recognize the holiday. It comes as businesses balance how to fight racism and support black employees in the wake of George Floyd's death and global protests demanding racial justice and an end to police brutality.

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