Municipal officials marked Juneteenth, a day celebrated by African Americans to mark the end of slavery in the United States, with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Underground Railroad monument site in downtown Paterson.
“You must never forget the struggles that we had to get to where we are. We still got many more to go but we must never forget,” said councilwoman Ruby Cotton, who represents the heavily African-American 4th Ward.
Cotton is the first black woman to serve as the mayor of Paterson.
“I declared today a holiday in Paterson,” said mayor Andre Sayegh. “Juneteenth represents freedom.”
Yesterday, Sayegh signed an executive order making Juneteenth a public holiday in Paterson. His order gave every municipal employee a paid holiday.
Paterson has nearly 2,000 employees.
“Every American should know what June 19 represents,” said Sayegh. Black Americans celebrate June 19 with family gatherings, picnics, and prayers. The holiday is largely unknown to most Americans. But Juneteenth is receiving a great deal of attention because of the George Floyd protests.
On June 19, 1863, some 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, to announce more than 250,000 black people in the state were free from bondage.
School officials in Paterson are debating whether to add Juneteenth as a public holiday to their calendar which would give teachers and students the day off.
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