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Effort continues to make Juneteenth a paid holiday in Maryland

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Posted at 11:56 AM, Jun 18, 2021

As organizations across the region get ready to celebrate Juneteenth, and President Joe Biden signs a bill making it a federal holiday, it won't be a paid holiday for Marylanders this year.

The holiday, has a long history.

"June 19 1865, was the date that those who were enslaved in the state of Texas learned that emancipation had come and had actually come two and a half years earlier," says Terri Freeman, the

Executive Director of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History and Culture.

Delegate Andrea Harrison (District 24, Prince George's County) wants Marylanders to have the day off to celebrate and remember.

This legislative session, she authored a bill to turn that idea into law. "I just believe that it is very fitting for the residents of the state of Maryland to have a full paid state holiday." says Harrison.

She's not alone in her fight.

Earlier this week, the President signed a bill into law making Juneteenth a federal holiday.

But Harrison's bill to make the day a paid state holiday didn't make it through the legislative session this year.

She tells WMAR, "It did actually pass out of the house, crossed over to the senate had the hearing, and then it never came up for a vote. The senator chose not to put it on the agenda for a vote."

Whether it's a paid day off or not, both Harrison and Freeman emphasized, it's the history that's important. "I do think if we can recognize July 4th, as an independence day, the country the state should recognize Juneteenth as Emancipation day," says Freeman.

Harrison says, "The history of this country, with its roots in slavery and indentured servitude is something we need to always remember."

And while Juneteenth celebrates the final announcement in Texas -- Maryland has its own complicated history surrounding emancipation.

Slaves in Maryland weren't emancipated until 1864. As a border slave-holding state during the civil war - the emancipation proclamation didn't actually free slaves in Maryland or the three other slave states in the union.

More than a century and a half later Delegate Harrison's fight for Maryland workers continues.

She has re-filed her bill for Juneteenth to be a paid day off for the next legislative session.