Denver could make Juneteenth a commemorative city holiday to recognizing a historic moment long celebrated by Black Americans.
Denver City Councilmember Chris Herndon made the proposal with support from Mayor Michael Hancock during a council committee meeting Tuesday. The move would be largely symbolic; the city recognizes commemorative holidays but doesn’t close its offices or give workers the day off.
Juneteenth commemorates the day Major General Gordon Granger told residents in a Texas city that slaves were free. Granger delivered the news on June 19, 1865, more than two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had gone into effect. The day’s also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day.
Herndon said he opted for a commemorative holiday instead of a legal one because of the implications the latter has on employee benefits and services provided by the city, such as election deadlines. Legal holidays have been altered in the past. In 2001, City Council switched Columbus Day in October with Cesar Chavez Day in March.
Herndon said Denver first hosted a Juneteenth celebration in 1953 in Five Points, once the heart of the city’s Black community. The neighborhood still hosts an annual parade and musical performances during Juneteenth.
The city has only two other commemorative holidays: Denver Day, observed in August, recognizes the city’s founding, and Indigenous Peoples Day, observed in October, commemorates the city’s Native American history.
The proposal now moves to the full city council for consideration.