The City of Portland and Multnomah County have both made June 19 a paid holiday for city and county employees, and Mayor Ted Wheeler has designated a citywide shutdown in observance of Juneteenth.
Celebrated on June 19 each year, Juneteenth, a blending of the words “June” and “nineteenth,” marks the day in 1865 that news of the abolition of slavery reached the westernmost slave state of Texas — two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation declaring that enslaved people within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free.’’
When Oregon was founded as a state in 1857, its constitution explicitly banned Black people from visiting, living, and owning property here. "To this day, navigating life as a Black American in our city and country does not come with the same privileges experienced by others," Mayor Ted Wheeler said in a statement.
"Despite the many barriers placed in front of them, Black Americans have showed time and time again, their resiliency, strength, wisdom, and courage," the statement continues. "We want to formally recognize the significance of June 19 and observe it as a day of both remembrance and action. We are committed to making sure this holiday is more than a gesture. It must symbolize our commitment to eliminating anti-Black racism within the City of Portland’s workforce and community."
The ordinance will:
Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury has also made Juneteenth an annual paid holiday for all County employees. The Chair’s designation places the day of observance alongside Independence Day, Memorial Day and Presidents’ Day in significance and impact.
“We have a profound responsibility at the County to acknowledge that the structural inequities in our community and country are rooted in the original enslavement of Black people,’’ said Chair Kafoury. “Observing the day of Black liberation honors the historic and current struggle, acknowledges the strength of our Black neighbors, friends and family, and reminds us of the hard and necessary work we must continue to dismantle systems of oppression.’’
City and County employees are urged on Juneteenth to use the day not only for celebration, but as an opportunity to learn about White supremacy, Black history locally and nationally, to support Black writers, filmmakers and artists, patronize Black-owned businesses, and honor the accomplishments of Black colleagues.
View information about Juneteenth Oregon 2020 and other events here.