Reflections on the First Official Juneteenth in Oregon

by Damien Grace

Covid 19, multiple mass shootings, fuel prices, inflation, Ukraine, homeless crisis, monkey pox, baby formula, Fentanyl overdose, drought, midterms, Roe v. Wade, gun control, increased murder rate, Critical Race Theory, defunding the police and on and on…these are what the news headlines in our country for 2022 have been so far. Right now, the things that divide us the most are at the forefront of the national mindset.

In these times when everything is hanging in the balance for the whole of our American society, there is the potential to be set back a half of a century if not more by the battle of ideologies being waged at the ballot box, courtrooms and informational media for the direction of our nation. We must gather around the holidays that we have created through celebrations, events, and memorials to remind us of who we are, where we have been, and what direction we are going. One such holiday that we can do this on is Juneteenth. This month marks the official first year of the Oregon State Recognized holiday of Juneteenth. At the request of Governor Kate Brown’s Office HB-2168 was introduced to the Oregon House of Representatives in 2021 to be recognized as a state holiday and voted in on June 1st, 2021.

 The following days are legal holidays in the state of Oregon: 

  • Each Sunday. 
  • New Year’s Day on January 1. 
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday on the third Monday in January.
  • Presidents Day, for the purpose of commemorating Presidents Washington and Lincoln, on the third Monday in February. 
  • Memorial Day on the last Monday in May. 
  • Juneteenth on June 19. 
  • Independence Day on July 4. 
  • Labor Day on the first Monday in September. 
  • Veterans Day on November 11. 
  • Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday in November.
  • Christmas Day on December 25.

A total of nine states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday across America. Here is the list with the dates when the holiday was recognized:

  • Texas (1980)
  • Massachusetts (2007)
  • New Jersey (2020)
  • New York (2020)
  • Pennsylvania (2020)
  • Virginia (2020)
  • Washington (2021)
  • Oregon (2021)
  • Delaware (2021)

President Biden signed a bill into law on June 17th, 2021, making Juneteenth a federal holiday. Juneteenth is a celebration of the official ending of slavery in the United States. After Robert E. Lee ended the Civil War by surrendering the Confederate Army of Virginia to the Union, General Gordon Granger was given command of what was then known as the District of Texas and entered the city of Galveston. General Granger read to the people the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19th, 1865; even though President Abraham Lincoln had issued the proclamation on January 1st, 1863. It is recorded that this set off celebrations in the streets by the people who were freed after hearing the proclamation read in public. So, Juneteenth is the combination of June and nineteenth. It is also known as Juneteenth Independence Day, Freedom Day, and Emancipation Day. 

Holidays like Juneteenth provide an essential way for us as a community to take pause, remember, celebrate, and renew our sense of responsibility to continue to actively engage in the shaping of our society for the peoples of Oregon, and for a more perfect union.

Damien Grace is the pen name of an active Portland-based PCP and member of the MultDems Communications Committee. He also contributed a post about the history of racial culture in Oregon for Juneteenth 2021; read it HERE.