Every year, Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee introduces a resolution to recognize the historical significance of Juneteenth. Introduced June 15, this year it has more than 200 co-sponsors — and that’s not all: she also plans this week to introduce a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
The road to such a holiday becoming a reality may be long, the Democrat acknowledges, noting it took nearly 20 years for Martin Luther King Jr. Day to become a national holiday, but she’s optimistic that the time is right for increasing awareness about slavery and how its legacy has carried over into modern racism.
“There needs to be a reckoning, an effort to unify. One thing about national holidays, they help educate people about what the story is,” Jackson Lee says. “Juneteenth legislation is a call for freedom, but it also reinforces the history of African Americans. We’ve fought for this country. We’ve made great strides, but we’re still the victims of sharp disparities. Our neighborhoods reflect that. We’ve been denied the same opportunities for housing, access to healthcare and, in 2020, [during] COVID-19, all of the glaring disparities are shown. Because of that, I think this is a time that we may find people who are desirous to understand the history not necessarily only of African Americans, but the history of America.”/p>