Posted on May 6, 2024

Juneteenth or Jefferson Davis? Ala. State Workers May Have to Choose

Rachel Hatzipanagos, Washington Post, April 22, 2024

Alabama state Rep. Juandalynn Givan and other Black lawmakers have lobbied for years to have the state recognize the Juneteenth holiday.

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This year, lawmakers may have reached a compromise.

Under the bill H.B. 4, Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, would become a state holiday. But state employees would be able to choose between recognizing Juneteenth or the birthday of the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, on June 3. Davis’s birthday is already a state holiday.

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The Alabama House of Representatives passed the bill April 11 by a margin of 83-0, with 58 Republicans and 25 Democrats voting in favor of the bill. Ten lawmakers abstained. The bill still must be voted on by the state Senate, where it hasn’t been introduced.

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“I look at it as a Republican holiday because the Emancipation was presented by Abraham Lincoln, who was a Republican,” state Rep. Rick Rehm (R) said during the debate on the legislation, referencing Juneteenth. {snip}

Allowing employees to choose between two holidays would keep the number of state holidays celebrated to 13, Rehm told WTVY.

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Alabama celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on the same day, Jan. 15. It celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on April 22.

But similar efforts have been more successful in other parts of the country. In 2022, Louisiana removed Robert E. Lee Day and Confederate Memorial Day from its list of state holidays. Georgia did the same in 2015.

Alabama’s Juneteenth compromise bill is a setback to the larger effort to promote the holiday, said Lisa Young, president of the Tuscaloosa County branch of the NAACP.

“Things are always politically divided here in Alabama. … However, for myself, I would’ve wanted all or nothing,” Young said. “Not treating Juneteenth the way all other holidays are treated is a slap in the face to African Americans.”

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