(HARTFORD, Conn.) — Connecticut is on the path to becoming the latest state to officially recognize Juneteenth, the day the last enslaved Black people in Texas were freed with the arrival of federal troops in 1865 — almost two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.
Black state legislators gave impassioned speeches Wednesday about the importance of June 19 as a cultural holiday for Black Americans before the bill’s almost-unanimous passage from the state House and Senate.
“This bill is about a holiday but it’s a lot more than that,” said Rep. Anthony Nolan. The legislation, he said, represents “freedom for Black people that has been delayed.”
The bill passed in the House 148-1 and the Senate 30-1. The bill is now headed to Gov. Ned Lamont’s desk.
Following discussion on the cost of the bill, Rep. Robyn Porter said it reminded her of the “cost that my people, Black people, paid as this country was built on our backs.”
She continued: “What it costs us and collateral when it came to having our names, our religion, our entire being and social network, dismantled and destroyed.”
Black legislators in support of the bill recalled the long history of slavery, racism and discrimination in America.
“We stand on the grounds of blood, sweat, tears, torn hands, torn feet, separated families, murdered fathers, mothers, babies, and I believe that it is important that we take time, dedicate time to honoring those who have fought for all of our freedom,” said Rep. Treneé McGee.
Rep. Charlie Stallworth said: “I wonder how would I feel if midnight came and I didn’t get the word that I could go. That I had no knowledge that I could be free. And that does not even compare to those who were in slavery that did not get the word that freedom happened.”
President Joe Biden made Juneteenth a federal holiday last summer. At least nine states officially recognize the holiday.
Though the bill passed with overwhelming support, intense debate about racial inequality and U.S. racial history took over the floor.
Rep. Kimberly Fiorello voted in favor of the bill, but stated an unfounded claim that the Three-Fifths Compromise, an 18th century policy that counted every enslaved Black American as three-fifths of a person, was a step toward the end of slavery.
However, many legislators corrected the record.
“Black people, men, women and children, were not seen as whole individuals, whole human beings, but three-fifths for the purpose of taxation and representation. That is what the Three-Fifths Compromise was rooted and grounded in,” Porter said.
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