Lewis County commissioners this week passed a proclamation recognizing June 19 as Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating when enslaved African Americans in Texas finally received word of the abolition of chattel slavery — more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862.
“President Lincoln correctly believed slavery to be in violation of the principles of the Declaration of Independence and determined that its abolition represented a ‘new birth of freedom’ for the nation,” the county’s proclamation reads.
The resolution was adopted unanimously.
“I think it’s a great day in American history,” Commissioner Sean Swope said, adding that he celebrated the holiday growing up in Texas.
“In light of some of the political unrest, we’ll call it, I think it’s a great opportunity to acknowledge the achievements of everyone and try to unite the nation the best we can,” Commissioner Gary Stamper said.
The Washington state Legislature formally adopted Juneteenth as a state paid holiday this year, although the law will go into effect after this year’s holiday. Congress could also soon pass legislation to establish Juneteenth as a national holiday. The U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday this week.
This Saturday, Centralia City Councilor Mark Westley and Multiculturally Minded Lewis County will put on a Juneteenth event at Washington Park starting at 10 a.m.
Community members will discuss the history of Juneteenth as well as the city’s own George Washington, the Black pioneer who founded Centralia.