Nevada County’s U.S. reps oppose Juneteenth holiday
Nev. County congressional reps vote against federal holiday commemorating end of slavery
Two of 14 congressmen who voted against establishing a new holiday celebrating the liberation of slaves in the United States represent Nevada County.
“I voted against the ‘Juneteenth National Independence Day Act’ because I don’t believe it’s healthy to reach into the dead past, revive its most malevolent conflicts and reintroduce them into our age,” said U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, whose district includes part of eastern Nevada County, in a statement.
U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, whose district includes most of Nevada county, also opposed its passage. They are the only California representatives who voted against the bill.
The bill passed 415-15 in the House on Wednesday, just days before the new federal holiday on June 19.
“Juneteenth is an important point in our history, commemorating the end of a dark period and fulfilling the goal of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the hundreds of thousands that were killed in the Civil War to enforce it,” LaMalfa said in a statement, adding that the bill and holiday’s shared name — Juneteenth National Independence Day — was contentious.
“(The name) could lead to further racial division as it now appears we have two different Independence Days,” LaMalfa said, offering “Emancipation Freedom Day” as a more appropriate and acceptable alternative.
Another paid federal day off costs American taxpayers $600 million, LaMalfa estimated, adding “another paid federal day off misses the mark.”
LaMalfa said he has, in the past, supported resolutions commemorating Juneteenth and has happily participated in community events of its celebration.
According to LaMalfa’s chief of staff, Mark Spannagel, LaMalfa attended Oroville’s seventh annual Juneteenth celebration in 2019 and voted for a resolution recognizing June 19, 2020, as Juneteenth that year.
According to the congressional website, the resolution “recognizes the historical significance and supports the continued celebration of Juneteenth Independence Day, June 19, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.”
Daniela Fernandez — a Nevada City Council member and the program director of Color Me Human, a nonprofit dedicated to racial equity in the area — said she and the organization’s director, Tracy Pepper, were “deeply disappointed” in the representatives’ decision.
Fernandez and Pepper said Juneteenth is an integral part of shared American history.
“On June 19, 1865, the last enslaved people were freed, two and a half years after the emancipation proclamation,” they said in a statement. “This is worth celebrating.”
Fernandez and Pepper said they were proud to stand with “the majority of Americans and a unanimous Senate” to honor this historically significant date.
Daryl Grigsby, a Color Me Human board member, said he was saddened but unsurprised by LaMalfa’s decision
“I’m sure he eagerly celebrates July Fourth, even though that ‘independence’ did not include Africans whose enslavement continued for another 89 years,” Grigsby said.
Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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