FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX19) - Gov. Andy Beshear signed a proclamation Thursday recognizing Juneteenth in the commonwealth of Kentucky for what he said was the very first time.
Juneteenth is celebrated Friday, June 19. In Kentucky it will now be known as Juneteenth National Freedom Day, per Beshear’s proclamation.
The signing of the proclamation, which came during Beshear’s daily COVID-19 update, was largely ceremonial, the governor said.
Beshear added he will have to ask the state legislature to recognize Juneteenth as an official state holiday.
“My commitment is I am going to ask the legislature to recognize it as a state holiday through legislation,” Beshear said. “It would have to pass in the next general assembly, but I think it is time. It is the right thing to do.”
Juneteenth commemorates the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas on June 19, 1865.
The holiday is traditionally celebrated by black communities as the end of slavery in America, though technically it was the Thirteenth Amendment, passed in December of the same year, that put slave-owning to a complete and formal end. Kentucky, for example, permitted slave-owning but did not secede during the war, meaning the proclamation had no power to free Kentucky’s slaves after the war was over.
Beshear didn’t quibble over the difference.
“During these times when again we have heard voices and we have seen the frustration of hundreds of years of ramifications of slavery, discriminations, Jim Crow, of segregation, I think it’s more and more important that we remind everybody of this dark chapter in our history and that its impacts continue to linger,” he said. “We should celebrate the dates that at least portions of that dark chapter ended.”
Beshear reported 234 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, a number that remains in the “manageable area,” he said, though the governor added Kentucky’s progress remains “fragile.”
He also urged everyone to wear a mask, “It’s not a test of your manhood whether you wear a mask or not, it’s a test of your compassion and a test of your faith.”
Around 6,500 new tests were reported in Kentucky Thursday for a total of 336,267.
Some 400 Kentuckians are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, and 68 are in the ICU.
Three new deaths reported Thursday brings the state’s total to 520.