Speaker Carl Heastie, Assemblymember J. Gary Pretlow and Assemblymember Alicia Hyndman today announced that the Assembly passed legislation to recognize Juneteenth and Abolition Commemoration Day in New York State.
African American history has too often been overlooked, whitewashed and relegated to the confines of a single month, Speaker Heastie said. I am proud to serve in this incredibly diverse legislative body, and one that continues to work to represent the diversity of our people and our history. I am also proud that today I can tell Association for the Study of African American Life and History New York State Director Bessie Jackson, a constituent of mine who for years has advocated for the recognition of Abolition Day, that her hard work has finally paid off.
Legislation passed today would establish Abolition Commemoration Day, which would be observed on the second Monday in July. This commemorates the Abolition Act, which passed the New York State Legislature on March 31, 1817 and abolished slavery effective July 4, 1827. Abolition Commemoration Day, not only marks the end of slavery in New York, but also honors the bravery and sacrifices of abolitionists (A.10831, Pretlow).
Slavery was not an institution confined to the south New York had its own long history with its cruelty and horrors. Our state also has a legacy of abolitionists like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman and countless others, Assemblymember Pretlow said. By recognizing Abolition Commemoration Day, we remember and shed light on both sides of Black and African American history, and New York States history, including the parts that are too often glossed over.
Freedom was never given, it was fought for. Today marks the creation of a new holiday Abolition Commemoration Day to recognize the end of slavery in New York State and a start to teaching our full uncompromised history. New York was one of the largest slave-holding states in this country and we are convinced that a civilized state should do no less than spend at least one day a year in atonement for its participation in the horror, fear and trauma that sustained slavery for more than 200 years. We are proud to have led this fight and stand with the entire state legislature to recognize the sacrifices of African Americans and other abolitionists in their fight for freedom, said Bessie M. Jackson, NYS Director of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
Also passed was legislation that would recognize Juneteenth as a public holiday in New York State. Juneteenth, June 19th, marks the day Union General Gordon Granger and federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, taking control of the state and enforcing the Emancipation Proclamation. Today, Juneteenth commemorates Black and African American freedom and achievements, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures (A.10628, Hyndman).
It is long past time that we commemorate and honor important dates in Black history, Assemblymember Hyndman said. Juneteenth must be recognized across the country as a public holiday, and I am proud that, working with my colleagues, we are able to mark a piece of Black liberation on the calendar and in our cultural consciousness here in New York State. The hope is that this day is celebrated far and wide.