By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) —Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced that state offices will close Friday for Juneteenth, the new federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in America.
Ivey issued the proclamation Thursday after President Joe Biden signed a bill making June 19 a federal holiday for Juneteenth Independence Day. Ivey said that after the federal bill became law that she authorized Friday as a holiday for state employees. June 19 falls on a Saturday this year.
The Republican governor is hopeful it will become a permanent state holiday, her office said. However, it is unclear if it will.
Leah Garner, Ivey’s communications director, said it was the governor’s decision to recognize the holiday. “However, for it to be a recurring holiday, the Legislature would need to codify it. It is our hope they do so now that it is a federal holiday,” Gardner said.
If they don’t, Ivey would need to issue another memo for the next state observation, Garner said.
State Auditor Jim Zeigler criticized Ivey’s decision to make it a state holiday for state workers, saying it’s the Alabama Legislature’s duty to declare state holidays.
June 19, 1865, is when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas — two months after the Confederacy surrendered and some 2 1/2 years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
The following year, the now-free people started celebrating Juneteenth in Galveston. The day became a celebration marking the end of slavery and was a holiday in many states, including Texas, before it became a federal holiday.
It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983.
Two Alabama congressmen— Rep. Mo Brooks and Rep. Mike Rogers of were among the 14 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives to vote against making Juneteenth a federal holiday.
Alabama generally recognizes federal holidays as state holidays. Holidays that fall on a weekend are celebrated on Friday or Monday.
State offices, including driver’s license offices, will be closed Friday. Ivey said employees who must work Friday should get a day off as soon as possible.
Alabama has three state holidays celebrating the Confederacy.
Confederate Memorial Day is marked on the fourth Monday in April. The state marks Jefferson Davis’ birthday in February. It also jointly celebrates Robert E. Lee Day with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January.