Juneteenth is a Holiday About What We Didn’t Know


Did you know that Governor Douglas signed a Proclamation in in 2008, announcing Juneteenth as an official holiday in Vermont (third Saturday of June). Most people don’t. Ironically (you’ll understand soon) the message never made it to us this year.

Juneteenth is one of the oldest African American holidays and commemorates the celebration that happened the day that the slaves of Texas were notified of their freedom. This announcement came about two and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation took effect. There are numerous theories and stories as to why it would have taken so long for for the word of freedom to be delivered to the slaves of Texas.  They range from the murder of a messenger to the nefarious intents of the slave owners. Whatever the reason, it is clear that some benefitted while others suffered because incredibly critical information never made it to those who needed and it most.  Vermont Juneteenth Day came and went on June 16th, with no governmental acknowledgement. No message, no press release, no blog. Nothing.  Do you see the irony yet?

Did you know that Vermont was actually NOT the first state to abolish slavery and the language permitting slavery still exists in the first Article of the Vermont Constitution? Did you know that the Senate refused to consider a resolution, urging the 2019 Senate to initiate an amendment to remove slavery from the Constitution? The Senate did however take up a similar resolution, urging the 2019 Senate to take up an ERA Constitutional Amendment.  Did you know that this past session, for the first time in history the Vermont House of Representatives introduced a resolution urging the 2019 Senate to remove all language authorizing slavery or indentured servitude from the Vermont Constitution? The House Government Operations Committee never took it up.  Constitutionalized slavery undergirds the exploitation of inmates for the purposes of political or economic gain.  Did you know that Vermont is currently exploiting inmates through the use of a program called Vermont Correctional Industries?

Did you know that the Governor vetoed the Systemic Racism Mitigation Bill (S.281) because of his concerns that he would not be able to unilaterally dismiss the Director?  Did you know that the attorneys in our nonpartisan Legislative Council produced a decision that S.281 was indeed constitutional? Did you know that the Executive Order (18-04) that the Governor released in lieu of the bill actually undermines any ability to address systemic racism? Did you know that S.5, a second version on the Systemic Racism Mitigation bill (omitting termination language) passed both chambers of the legislature and it is headed to the Governor? Systemic racism creates racial disparities in the criminal justice system, education, housing, employment, health services and economic development. In fact systemic racism is at the root of the immigration policy that is separating children from their parents at the borders of this nation today!

Just as the message failed to make it to Texas, so too is the message failing to make it to us, here is Vermont. The same truth exists today that for whatever the reason, it is clear that some benefit while others sufferer because incredibly critical information is not making it to those who need it most.


Mark Hughes
Ed, Justice For All