Posted on May 29, 2024

Death of Juneteenth Bill in Alabama Legislature Sparks Accusations

Jemma Stephenson, Alabama Reflector, May 27, 2024

A bill that would have made Juneteenth a state holiday died in the Alabama Legislature, leading to accusations from the sponsor about the reasons why.

HB 4, sponsored by Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, would have made Juneteenth, commemorating the end of American slavery, a state holiday. The legislation would not have created a mandatory day off for state employees. Instead, the bill, amended in the Republican-controlled chamber to match a version of the legislation by Rep. Chris Sells, R-Greeneville, would have required state agencies to grant that day off or Jefferson Davis’ Birthday.

Jefferson Davis’ Birthday is a state holiday on the first Monday of June that commemorates the former Confederate president, a slaveholder and the head of an explicitly white supremacist government.

“We live in a state where there’s an attempt to eradicate Black history,” Givan said in a Friday phone interview. “We can no longer teach it in schools. So, all those things, and I just believe that it, a, it deserves a standalone holiday.”

The bill passed the House of Representatives in April but was never assigned to a Senate committee, the first step in getting legislation through a chamber.

Givan accused Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, of preventing the bill from moving forward.


Givan claimed that the Juneteenth bill was targeted because legislation that would have extended a financial lifeline to Birmingham-Southern College, a liberal arts school that will shut down this week, failed to come to a House vote.

“I think is absolutely, it was a sad day for the state of Alabama that a Black man which I said on the floor, a Black man in leadership would kill a bill, not only my bill he killed several bills, as retribution regarding the Birmingham-Southern situation,” she said.