The Denver City Council unanimously voted to establish Juneteenth as an official city commemorative holiday during a Council meeting on Monday night.
Mayor Michael Hancock said the move will “elevate the experience of African-Americans in our city and across the country.”
“This long-overdue recognition honors African-American freedom, history and achievement; renews Denver’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion; and opens the door for residents, especially our young people, to be educated about this moment in American history," Hancock said.
Juneteenth, also called Freedom Day and Emancipation Day, celebrates the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S. The holiday recognizes June 19, 1865 when Major General Gordon Granger announced slaves in Texas were free.
This announcement came more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, declaring all enslaved people in rebel states were free.
Denver has celebrated Juneteenth for decades, with the first official celebration being held in 1953 in Five Points. The neighborhood now hosts an annual parade and music festival for Juneteenth.
"Denver has a proud, longstanding tradition of celebrating Juneteenth in the community,” said Councilman Chris Herndon, who made the proposal. “This is an opportunity to shine a light on Black history and officially recognize and celebrate our freedom, heritage and achievement.”
Juneteenth joins Denver Day and Indigenous Peoples Day as the city’s only recognized commemorative holidays. Denver Day celebrates the city’s founding and Indigenous Peoples Day celebrates Denver’s Native American heritage.
Denver recognizes commemorative holidays but they do not allow for days off work or school.
Juneteenth will be recognized annually on the Saturday closest to June 19 as Denver’s day for celebration, beginning this year.