Jeramey Jannene

Juneteenth Flags Will Fly at Capitol, City Office Building For First Time

Move is part of growing recognition for holiday.

By - Jun 18th, 2020 03:18 pm
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Wisconsin State Capitol. Photo by Dave Reid.

Wisconsin State Capitol. Photo by Dave Reid.

Juneteenth, the annual celebration of the end of African American enslavement, is normally marked by a parade down N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. in Milwaukee and a daytime festival.

The holiday marks when federal troops ordered the remaining slaves held in the state of Texas to be released on June 19th, 1865. The announcement came over two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation legally freeing the slaves.

Milwaukee has held a celebration to mark the day every year since 1971, one of the longest continually operating Juneteenth observations.

And while the COVID-19 pandemic will prevent Milwaukee’s 49th annual parade from happening in 2020, both the City of Milwaukee and State of Wisconsin are taking action to visibly recognize the holiday.

Governor Tony Evers and Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes ordered a Juneteenth flag to fly on the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison on June 19th. It will temporarily replace the LGBTQ+ rainbow flag flying over the Capitol for Pride Month.

“This year, Juneteenth has particular significance as we find ourselves in the midst of a movement for racial justice and an end to systemic racism,” said Barnes. “We have won significant freedoms since 1619, but our work will not be over until all Black lives matter by way of equity and the opportunity to thrive.”

Alderwoman Chantia Lewis also has moved to have the flag fly over a city-owned building in the City Hall complex. Due to logistical issues, the flag will fly over the city office building at 809 N. Broadway, just east of City Hall.

“It will be the first time the flag has been displayed at a City of Milwaukee government building, and I am working to see if it can be flown next year on the flag pole high atop the bell tower of our historic City Hall,” said Lewis in a statement.

The flag will be raised in a ceremony at 9:00 a.m. on Friday morning.

“Juneteenth is the official Independence Day for African Americans across the country, and it’s important that our history is told and officially celebrated as well,” said the alderwoman.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley has taken things one step further and designated June 19th a floating holiday for county employees. The move allows employees discretion to take the day off.

“Juneteenth is a day to celebrate the rich history and culture of the African American community. It is also a day to appreciate the long struggle for civil rights that Black people in America have faced for centuries. I am hopeful that our employees will be able to take June 19 as a day ‘on’ not a day off in order to fully support Black lives, liberation, and the vision of Milwaukee County to achieve racial equity and become the healthiest county in Wisconsin,” said Crowley in announcing the executive order.

On Tuesday the Common Council also unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the holiday being federally recognized.

And while the federal government has yet to recognize the holiday, 47 states have. Wisconsin was the 32nd to do so, with the state recognizing it starting in 2009.

The Juneteenth celebration has received greater attention this year in the wake of the international George Floyd protest movement. A number of businesses are closing early or closing for the entire day in response, including Associated Bank, US Bank and BMO Harris Bank.

For more information on Juneteenth observations, including virtual events, see coverage from our partners at the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service.

Northcott Neighborhood House and the Juneteenth Day executive committee are planning to host a freedom ball later this year to celebrate the holiday.

Past Juneteenth Day Celebrations

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Categories: Politics

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