Cobb County recognizes Juneteenth as holiday with one dissenting vote

Welcome to Cobb County brick sign at Henderson Road on Veterans MemorialCobb County welcome sign (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

In a 4-1 vote, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners approved an proposal to make Juneteenth, a celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation that formally ended slavery in the United States, a county holiday.

In the agenda packet, the proposal was described as follows:

Many Federal, Local, and State agencies are closed each year on Juneteenth to provide their employees with
the opportunity to attend events honoring this important date in the history of our Country. It is proposed to
amend the Holiday Policy to establish Juneteenth as an annual holiday for eligible County employees.

The proposal set the first date of the holiday at June 20, 2022.

District 1 Commissioner Keli Gambrill cast the sole vote against the proposal, asking, “How do we determine what is a holiday? You know, do we a let a special interest group determine what our holiday should be?”

She said she asked that question during the Board of Commissioners work session the previous day and was told that holidays were determined by the BOC.

“Yes, it is a vote of the board,” Gambrill said. “But there’s also a cost to the taxpayers.”

The other Republican Commissioner, JoAnn Birrell, said, “I don’t think there’s anyone in this room that would that condone slavery, and this is a celebration (of) the Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery. So I support this.

The discussion was marked by the airing of disputes not directly related to Juneteenth, including a statement by Gambrill that statements made by BOC Chairwoman Lisa Cupid, and printed in the Marietta Daily Journal, were disrespectful to Police Chief Tim Cox, who is retiring.

Cupid said that she had been disheartened by the way the MDJ framed her comments.

“But I also think that’s unfortunate for that to be utilized in respect to addressing our holiday schedule,” Cupid said.

View the discussion on the video embedded below:

Background

President Joseph Biden declared Juneteenth a national holiday in an address on June 17, and said in his opening remarks:

One hundred and fifty-six years ago … June 19th, 1865 … a major general of the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas, to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation and free the last enslaved Americans in Texas from bondage. A day… that became known as Juneteenth. You all know that. A day that reflects what the Psalm tells us: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

Juneteenth marks both the long, hard night of slavery and subjugation and a promise of a brighter morning to come. This is a day of profound — in my view — profound weight and profound power.

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