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Lamont signs legislation to make Juneteenth a state holiday

Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz
Connecticut Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz speaks in front of a recreation of the Amistad ship during Governor Ned Lamont's ceremonial signing of a bill that declares Juneteenth a state holiday.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont held a ceremony on Friday to sign a bill that declares June 19, or Juneteenth, a state holiday.

He was joined by state officials at State Pier in New London, which is home to the recreation of the Amistad ship.

Enslaved African people took control of the ship from the Spanish in 1839 off the coast of eastern Long Island. It was later towed to New London, where they were arrested.

Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz said the signing of this bill is a way to correct the wrongs of the past.

“Today, we're one step closer to changing the course of our history,” Bysiewicz said. “Juneteenth is a day of joy, of collective celebration, self determination and perseverance — a day in which we honor those who could not see freedom, and the many others who did see freedom.”

Juneteenth celebrates the day in 1865 when enslaved people were finally freed in Texas, the last state in the nation to comply with the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Lincoln two years earlier.

Olivia Campbell is a fifth grade student at Nathan Hale Arts Magnet School in New London. She’s also a 2022 Connecticut Kid Governor and cabinet member. She said that many young children her age are unfamiliar with Juneteenth.

“It is imperative that my generation recognize the significance of this day and realize that it’s much more than a day off,” Campbell said. “It’s set aside to commemorate the freedom of African American people. I, for one, am proud to share the importance of Juneteenth with you.”

Lamont said Juneteenth is a holiday, but also a learning opportunity.

“If you don't learn from your past, you're bound to repeat those mistakes,” Lamont said. “Slavery was not just a mistake, but it reminds me of those that, you know, want to airbrush our history… it’s dangerous if you're not willing to learn from our past and I think that's what Juneteenth is all about.”

Local NAACP members will celebrate Juneteenth on Saturday, June 11 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Opportunities Industrialization Center of New London County.

Natalie is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.