It was just over a year ago when the federal government declared Juneteenth a Federal Holiday, and now county employees will officially have the observed as a paid holiday in Erie County.

The day that African Americans have typically set aside to celebrate their freedom from chattel slavery in the United States of America is generally observed on June 19th every year. Because June 19th is a Sunday in 2022, the County Government will observe the day on Monday, June 20, 2022.

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Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States at the end of the Civil War, marking the moment in history the word spread across America that all men were free. This celebration is also an opportunity to recommit ourselves to protecting that freedom, guarding it and teaching upcoming generations to do the same... We have recently concluded negotiations with bargaining units that represent the vast majority of our employees that include the Juneteenth holiday for their membership, so this action will now make it a holiday for the remainder of our employees this year. It is my hope that our Erie County family will use this day off to educate themselves, self-reflect, and to honor and celebrate the freedoms Juneteenth symbolizes.
-Mark C. Poloncarz, Erie County Executive

According to the press release issued by Erie County, county buildings and offices will be closed. However, county operations like the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, the 911 call center, Parks and other essential services be open and operational and these employees will receive holiday pay.

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is the oldest celebration of the end of slavery in the United States of America and has been celebrated in Buffalo since at least 1976. The Buffalo celebration routinely ranks as one of the largest celebrations in the country.

Juneteenth was the oldest known observance of the ending of slavery in the United States. According to historical records, the celebration began on June 19, 1865, the day Major General Gordon Granger of the Union Army rode into Galveston, Texas in final execution of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Issued by President Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1862, the Emancipation Proclamation stated, among other things, "That on the 1st day of January, A.D., 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall they be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free..."
-History of Juneteenth, Juneteenth Festival of Buffalo, Inc.

Even though slavery ended in 1863 after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, there were still large parts of the country where slavery was still in existence. It took more than 2 years before the last group of slaves was freed by General Granger in Galveston, TX.

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