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Why do Wyoming workers not have Juneteenth off?

Six Black adults pose for a black and white picture dressed in fancy clothing at a Juneteenth celebration in 1900 in Austin, Texas.
Austin History Center
An Emancipation Day celebration on June 19, 1900 held in Austin, Texas.

Today, people across the country are celebrating Juneteenth, a holiday recognizing the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States.

Pres. Joe Biden made it a federal holiday back in 2021 after the Black Lives Matter movement took hold, but about a third of states still don’t recognize it as a paid day off, including the Equality State.

In Wyoming, Juneteenth has been recognized since 2003 on the third Saturday of the month, while the federal holiday is on June 19. That’s the day in 1865 that the news of emancipation reached enslaved people in Texas. Now, many people see it as a celebration and remembrance of Black joy.

A group of Wyoming lawmakers, including Rep. Landon Brown (R-Cheyenne), said they want to see the day align with the rest of the country.

Brown said this would cost the state around $8 million a day, but that it’s worth it.

“I do believe that it’s the right thing to do when we have it recognized by all other entities, federal, city and county here even in just Cheyenne,” Brown said.

Brown introduced a bill in 2023 that would have designated June 19 a legal holiday for state employees, just like Independence Day or Martin Luther King Jr. Day. If the day falls on the weekend, state workers would have gotten the following Monday off.

Rep. Mike Yin (D-Jackson), who co-sponsored the bill, said Republican leadership didn’t bring it forward in last year’s packed session, but said he’s hopeful the legislation could gain bipartisan support in the future.

“I think the fact that it was brought by a Republican with Democratic support highlights that it is a bipartisan issue just to recognize our history, like it's a matter of education of the history of the United States,” Yin said.

Brown said he plans to reintroduce the legislation in 2025 and see where it goes.

Wyoming and Montana, which have some of the smallest Black populations in the country, are the only states in the Mountain West to not recognize Juneteenth as a paid day off.

Entrance fees for Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park were waived for the holiday.

Hanna is the Mountain West News Bureau reporter based in Teton County.

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