Chattanooga City Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod is asking council for an April 27 vote on whether to make Juneteenth a paid holiday for city employees.
She first brought the matter up last July. At that time, council passed a resolution supporting a Juneteenth observance, but did not make it a paid one.
“Juneteenth is about reclaiming our history, rejoicing in the progress we’ve made and recommitting to the work yet undone,” said Councilwoman Coonrod. “Chattanooga still has a long way to go to reckon with and overcome the dark legacy of slavery and the violence and injustice that has persisted after its end.”
The District 9 council member noted that city finance came up with a projected $690,000 cost for making Juneteenth a paid city holiday.
“That is in lost productivity,” Coonrod said. “It really won’t cost the city much.”
The city of Chattanooga currently has 11 paid holidays–New Year’s Day, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, Friday after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Coonrod said Juneteenth should stand on its own.
“Chattanooga should celebrate that Juneteenth recognizes when ‘land of the free, home of the brave’ became a reality for all,’” she said.
Juneteenth (short for “June Nineteenth”) marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. The troops’ arrival came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Juneteenth honors the end to slavery in the United States and is considered the longest-running African American holiday.
It is also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day.