© 2024 NPR Illinois
The Capital's Community & News Service
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Juneteenth Could Become A State Holiday

State Sen. Kimberly Lightford

Illinois could have a new state holiday commemorating the day in 1865 when the last enslaved people were freed. A state senate committee Wednesday approved making June 19 Juneteenth National Freedom Day.

State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, a Democrat from Maywood, sponsored the bill, which would create a paid holiday for state employees. She said the day is a milestone for Black Americans that should be celebrated and used to educate youth.

“Making Juneteenth a state holiday is a way of highlighting our freedom, and reminding us how far we've come and a reminder that black Americans are still recovering from the terrible legacy of slavery,” Lightford said.

Juneteenth has grown from the celebration of the abolishment of slavery into a day to appreciate African American arts, culture and the impacts of the civil rights movement in the United States, she said.

Despite casting a vote in favor of the measure, Republican Sen. Jil Tracy of Quincy questioned whether another holiday could be swapped to save payroll funds.

“I appreciate what we're trying to commemorate, but I just think that it's part of our obligation to figure out how much it's going to cost,” Tracy said.

The bill calls for the legislation to be enacted immediately, but a spokeswoman for the Central Management Agency wrote: “CMS is open to the inception of Juneteenth as a holiday for State employees. However, the agency would need more lead time to identify the necessary funding plan the implementation with labor partners. CMS is open to working with the sponsor for SB 1965 to address the implementation.”

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is news editor and equity and justice beat reporter for NPR Illinois, where she has been on the staff since 2014 after Illinois Issues magazine’s merger with the station. She joined the magazine’s staff in 1998 as projects editor and became managing editor in 2003. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, she was an education reporter and copy editor at three local newspapers, including the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in English from UIS.