PRATTVILLE, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama city is giving its employees an additional paid holiday after its City Council voted to recognize Juneteenth.
The holiday marks June 19, 1865, when federal troops entered Galveston, Texas, some two months after the Civil War ended. The day, also known as “Freedom Day,” was established to mark the end of slavery in the country.
Prattville City Council District 2 Councilman Marcus Jackson, the sole Black member on the panel, lobbied for the recognition. Ideas ranged from a city-sponsored event to a holiday, The Montgomery Advertiser reported.
“It’s a good day in Prattville,” Jackson said. “I’m very appreciative that the City Council passed the resolution unanimously. Having the paid holiday is important because it marks a day when a large group of Americans learned about their freedom. It is our shared history, as Americans.
“We have made great progress since then. But we still have to work on our efforts to ensure diversity and inclusivity. Having this paid holiday can help keep a spotlight on those efforts.”
Juneteenth became a federal holiday this year after President Joe Biden signed an executive order. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey followed by making it a state holiday. Ivey’s move was made just before June 19.
Most local governments follow the state’s holiday schedule, which provides for 14 paid holidays for state employees.
Prattville Council President Jerry Starnes sponsored the move to add Juneteenth to Prattville’s holiday list.
“I think it is important to observe an important day in history,” he said. “I thought the actions making it a holiday this year were a little quick. We really didn’t have any time to prepare. The council sets the holidays when we approve the budget. So this gives us plenty of time ahead of next year.”
Prattville gives employees 12 holidays a year now, including one personal day taken at the employees’ request.
At one time, Prattville followed the state holiday schedule, but things have changed. About five years ago, Mayor Bill Gillespie Jr. did away with the federal holidays of Presidents’ Day and Columbus Day. In their place employees were given the Friday after Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve as holidays.
Earlier, former Mayor Jim Byard Jr. ended Confederate Memorial Day and Jefferson Davis’s Birthday. He did not replace those paid days off. The only Confederate-related holiday Prattville recognizes is the combined Martin Luther King Jr./ Robert E. Lee birthdays.
Other local governments also recognized Juneteenth this year, including the City of Montgomery and the Autauga County Commission, which follow the state holiday schedule.