As Boston city councilors push for Juneteenth, an annual celebration on June 19 that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, to be an official citywide holiday, Mayor Martin J. Walsh said on Thursday that he would support it, but it would present some minor challenges.
“It’s an idea that a lot of people are excited about, as they should be,” Walsh said during a news conference on Thursday afternoon.
However, Walsh noted that for it to be holiday, “it has to be a state law.”
“We wouldn’t be able to do it for tomorrow. . . it’d have to be a state legislative change,” he said.
Walsh also said if the holiday were to be created, “it would add to costs in the city, because it’s overtime, and we’d have to work it into all the contracts.”
Still, he noted that he would welcome the move.
“I mean, I support it. If the Legislature does it, I support it wholeheartedly. But we’d have to look at how does it happen — does it fall on a date, does it fall on a weekend? You know, the date might be in the middle of the week. . . So there’s a lot of conversation.”
A trio of city councilors — Kim Janey, Julia Mejia, and Andrea Campbell — plan to file legislation to that effect soon, they said Wednesday, and the council officially recognized Juneteenth through a resolution on Wednesday. (Cities like Chicago, Portland, and Philadelphia have already taken steps to make Juneteenth a holiday, officials said.)
The origins of the day lie in the arrival of a Union general and his troops in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, to free tens of thousands of slaves still in bondage two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Widespread celebrations ensued, though true liberation — particularly for those enslaved on plantations amid harvest season — was a gradual process.
“Juneteenth may mark the formal end of slavery in this country, but the scars and the effects of slavery and the racist policies our nation was founded on are still visible, are painful, and demand our attention and our action,” Campbell said Wednesday. “Juneteenth should be a Citywide holiday.”
Harvard will also close Friday in recognition of Juneteenth.
Walsh said the Juneteenth flag would fly outside Boston City Hall on Friday, and that the city will have more information and resources on its website.