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Fort Worth Becomes Latest City to Make Juneteenth a Paid Holiday

In June Congress went forward in a historic move to make June 19 a federal holiday. For many people in the Black community, the date had long been known to them as Juneteenth, a long-running Black holiday that commemorated the end of slavery in Texas. With the recent decision, the date would now be recognized as Juneteenth National Independence Day.

Still, many people were seeking to make the landmark bill not only a national holiday, but one with paid benefits. Now one Texas city has taken that step.

Starting in 2022, roughly 7,000 city workers in Fort Worth, Texas, will receive paid time off as they enjoy their Juneteenth festivities. On Tuesday, August 10, the City Council unanimously approved the resolution-making June 19 a paid day off.

Civic leader and retired educator Opal Lee, affectionally known as that “grandmother of the movement,” has been a critical player in bringing national attention to the importance of the day. The local figure received praise for efforts while speaking on the achievement. 

“I just want to say thank you. … And just know that we’ve got [more] work to do,” Lee told the council Tuesday night during its meeting on the matter. “I want the city to realize that what we’re doing is not a me thing. It’s a we thing.” The 94-year-old championed elected leaders to work together on several issues, including racial disparity, unemployment, and homelessness.

Before the decision was passed down, Councilwoman Gyna Bivens held up a book and addressed the longtime civic leader. In her hand was Charles A. Taylor’s “Juneteenth: A Celebration of.” “I just wanted to show you something that you were taking around the city probably a decade ago … educating the public about Juneteenth,” Bivens said while addressing Lee. 

In June, Lee attended President Biden’s signing ceremony for the new Juneteenth federal holiday and was given the first of several pens Biden used to sign his name.

Washington, D.C., has recognized Juneteenth as an official holiday since 2004. Now Fort Worth becomes the latest city to offer workers the day as a paid holiday, joining Kansas City, Missouri; Wilmington, Delaware; Springfield, Illinois; and others. 

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