Holidays

Juneteenth Is Now a Holiday in Colorado: What You Should Know

Juneteenth is back, in a big way.
Juneteenth is back, in a big way. Ken Hamblin III
On Sunday, June 19, Colorado officially observed Juneteenth as both a federal and state holiday for the first time.

On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger and Union troops spread the news in Galveston, Texas, that enslaved Americans were free — more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The event was later dubbed Juneteenth, and was celebrated unofficially for more than a century before it became an actual holiday.

On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, making  June 19 the first federal holiday added to the country's lineup since President Ronald Reagan named Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday in 1983.

Like MLK Day, Juneteenth is a paid federal holiday, and since June 19 fell on a Sunday this year, many government offices are closed on Monday, June 20, when federal employees have the day off. Federal Reserve banks, as well as most other banks and schools, are closed today and there will be no mail delivery, as the U.S. Postal Service will observe Juneteenth on Monday.

On May 2, 2022, Governor Jared Polis signed into law a bill passed by the State Legislature to make Juneteenth Colorado's eleventh official holiday. As a result, state employees will be off on Monday, June 20; state offices and courts are closed, as well.

Despite the Mile High City's long history of celebrating Juneteenth — the big bash was in Five Points this past weekend — Denver does not yet recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday. In May, the Denver City Council Finance and Governance committee approved a proposal to change that, and the final reading and vote on that proposal will be at the full Denver City Council meeting on June 20 — ironically, on the same day that federal and Colorado governments will already be off, observing the holiday.

If Denver City Council approves the proposal, it will be added to the calendar in 2023, making it the city's eleventh official holiday.

Westword will be closed on Monday, June 20, in observance of Juneteenth.
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