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Jun 17

City Manager's Message: 6-17-2020: Commemorating Juneteenth

Posted on June 17, 2020 at 5:47 PM by Don Mann

As most of you are aware, yesterday Gov. Ralph Northam announced that state offices would be closed on Friday, June 19, in commemoration of Juneteenth.  Juneteenth is the commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. Although President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation went into effect Jan. 1, 1863, it was nearly 2½ years later before the news reached all areas with enslaved African Americans. It was June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with the news of the war’s end and the president’s declaration. 

The Governor's announcement commemorating Juneteenth is especially significant to Hampton, as last year we were preparing to commemorate the first Africans brought to English North America at modern-day Fort Monroe. Recognizing Juneteenth — which is the oldest nationally recognized commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States — is even more important.   

That said, I am pleased to announce that City Council has concurred with my recommendation that we designate this Friday, June 19, 2020, as a paid Administrative/Bonus day so that we can collectively commemorate this important part of our history. While we did not get much advance notice that the governor planned to make Juneteenth a state holiday, we felt strongly about affirming the significance of this day for our citizens and employees.  We realize that some employees must continue to provide services. As we have done in the past, employees who are unable to take off this Friday will receive that time to use at a later date. 

I hope you use this day off as an opportunity to reflect on this critical history. I encourage you to take the time to learn more about Juneteenth and to refresh/broaden your understanding of the history surrounding enslavement of African Americans. As we better understand the past, we can even better advance the important work of inclusivity and equity in our community.

— Mary

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