DOVER — Following a continued interest in recognizing Juneteenth, a holiday honored on June 19, municipalities around Delaware will be closing their offices on Friday.
Offices for the state, Kent County Levy Court, the cities of Dover, Harrington and Milford and the town of Smyrna will be closed. Sussex County government offices also will be closed.
Delaware courts also will be closed Friday although Justice of the Peace courts 11 (New Castle County), seven (Kent County) and three (Sussex County) will remain open.
Introduced by Rep. Dorsey Walker on June 3, Delaware legislators also have filed a bill that would establish Juneteenth as a state holiday. A similar bill was filed in 2020, however no action was taken before the legislative session concluded.
Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans in the United States. The holiday was first celebrated June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas where, in the aftermath of the Civil War, enslaved people were declared free under the terms of the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation.
Dover, Kent County Levy Court, state offices and Delaware courts observed Juneteenth as a holiday last year as well.
“Kent County offices will be closed so that we can educate ourselves about the significance of Juneteenth and contemplate our nation’s and our state’s history about race, and begin to understand the frustration felt by so many Americans demanding racial justice and equality,” Levy Court President Terry L. Pepper said in a news release.
At the state level, the bill adding Juneteenth as a legal holiday would also reduce the number of floating holidays to one. The two floating holidays were created as replacements for Presidents Day and Columbus Day — Juneteenth would replace Columbus Day as a legal holiday.
In Dover, Councilman William Hare spoke about Juneteenth calling it a “special day for a lot of people,” noting it is being recognized this year by the state and city of Wilmington.
Dover City Council President Roy Sudler also spoke in support of honoring Juneteenth.
“I just think that it’s something that the city of Dover should also make a holiday,” Councilman Hare said. “I think it should be a holiday.”
The motion to honor Juneteenth was approved Monday with eight to one support from the council — Councilman David Anderson voted against. He raised concerns about the cost of staffing during the holiday. Assistant City Manager Matt Harline said the city has funds to pay staff overtime hours for those who will have to work during the holiday.
In his report during the Monday Dover City Council meeting, Mr. Hairline said he plans to continue a diversity and inclusion committee that aims to improve the city’s recruitment and retention of a diverse staff.
He said diversity and inclusion is valued, but noted it should continue to be made clear throughout the organization.
The city of Milford also will be closed on Friday in observance of Juneteenth. The city council approved Juneteenth as a holiday last year with its 2021 holiday calendar. In Smyrna, all non-police offices and operations will be closed Friday.
Michael Petit de Mange, Kent County administrator, spoke of the significance of observing Juneteenth.
“Kent County joins our Gov. John Carney and all people who yearn for justice and equality to reflect upon the significance of Juneteenth in our nation’s history, and spend this day in remembrance and self-examination,” he said in a statement. “It is our hope and our expectation that we emerge from the recent difficulties as a stronger, more cohesive, and united community that values each individual and embraces as the greatest strength of the country.”