From the County Manager Column from June 15, 2021

Juneteenth: A day to celebrate and reflect

This coming Saturday, June 19, is Juneteenth. At last Tuesday’s county board meeting, the board issued a proclamation recognizing the importance of Juneteenth and directing our administration to establish June 19 as an official paid holiday beginning next year in Ramsey County. As part of the presentation, members of Ramsey County’s Black Excellence employee resource group and community leaders shared their thoughts and reflections on Juneteenth. If you haven’t had a chance to watch the video of the meeting, I’d urge you to take a few minutes to do so.

Watch the video

Racial and Health Equity Administrator Sara Hollie wrote about the history of Juneteenth for the June 2021 edition of Health and Wellness Racial Equity News. I’d like to share that writing in full here:

On Jan. 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that declared all enslaved people within the rebellious states “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” Despite the language used, the emancipation did not become national policy but rather was used as a military strategy for the northern Union during the American Civil War. Because of this military strategy, the proclamation only applied to people who were enslaved within the Confederacy, but not those enslaved in Union states or southern secessionist states that had already come under Union control.  

Due to a lack of military enforcement, the last state to practice slavery was Texas. There, it took over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation for the last enslaved people to be freed. On June 19, 1865, U.S. General Gordon Granger announced General Orders No. 3, which read: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” The addition of 2,000 Union troops in Texas helped enforce the executive order that ultimately resulted in 250,000 enslaved Black people gaining their freedom.  

Juneteenth was first celebrated by Texans the following year on June 19, 1866. Since then, the celebration has spread across the country and has been recognized as an official holiday in 47 states. The holiday has many names such as "Freedom Day," “Jubilee Day” and “Liberation Day” and is considered our country’s second independence day. 

Here are some additional resources to learn more about Juneteenth: 

On Juneteenth, our organization will be represented at Allianz Field from 1-5 p.m. with a walk-up COVID-19 vaccine clinic and healing circle. We’ll also be at Boyd Park in Saint Paul with a Public Health information table from 3-4:30 p.m. at an event hosted by YMCA Saint Paul featuring a community celebration and live music. In addition to these events, there are many others taking place across the Twin Cities. Nationally, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture has created a series of virtual events this week.

I’d like to thank the members of the Black Excellence employee resource group and the Racial and Health Equity Administrators for their leadership on the Juneteenth presentation and proclamation. Employees interested in joining Black Excellence – or other ERGs - can find more information under Employee Resources on RamseyNet.

Looking ahead to this Saturday, I encourage all employees to seek ways to celebrate, recognize and reflect on Juneteenth here in Ramsey County. And - thanks to the leadership of our employees and commissioners - all employees can look ahead to June 19, 2022 as a day we’ll honor Juneteenth together celebrating an official holiday.