Posted on December 19, 2020

Cook County Becomes Largest County to Officially Recognize Juneteenth as Paid Holiday for Its Employees

Alice Yin, Chicago Tribune, December 17, 2020

The Cook County Board voted Thursday to recognize Juneteenth as an official paid holiday for county government employees starting next year, following a year marked by racial justice protests over high-profile killings of Black people.

In 2021, Juneteenth will be designated as one of 14 government holidays granted to all Cook County workers, making it the country’s largest populated county to grant a paid day off to celebrate both Black Americans’ freedom from slavery and their contributions to the nation. Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of the measure, which outlines the centuries of mistreatment America has dealt on Black people.


“This year, Cook County and the nation have experienced unprecedented racial and civil unrest,” lead co-sponsor Commissioner Stanley Moore said. “The call to recognize Juneteenth in light of these unfortunate events is stronger than ever. The passage of this ordinance is the first step towards the healing process for African Americans and for all.”

The federal government does not officially recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday, and Chicago’s City Council has instead designated it as a nonbinding day of observance despite previous attempts to make it an official holiday with all offices closed. {snip}

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, drawing on her roots as a history teacher, said to reporters on Thursday that slavery was America’s “original sin,” noting it was even enshrined in the Constitution.


Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of Black Americans from slavery on June 19, 1865, when Gen. Gordon Grainger led his troops to Galveston, Texas, and issued an order announcing the end of the Civil War and officially freeing remaining slaves in the state. {snip}