COLUMBIA, MO – On Tuesday, Columbia College officially decided to make Juneteenth a paid holiday.

According to the Juneteenth website, “Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.” The holiday is a celebration that also reflects on the last group of enslaved learning that they had been emancipated in April. The Union army delivered the news of freedom to slaves in pockets of the country. Juneteenth marks the date the last enslaved people in Texas learned of their freedom.  

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement this summer, Juneteenth received more attention. Protest this summer sparked conversation about how the holiday that ended slavery still doesn’t have widespread recognition.

Columbia College is working towards more acknowledgement for the holiday’s history by establishing it as a paid holiday. The president of the college said he’s looking forward to honoring this holiday.

“Juneteenth celebrates the time when, frankly, the union army finally got there and shared the news with people that they were free,” Columbia College President Scott Dalrymple said of the new paid holiday, “So, to me, Juneteenth, is all about celebration and hope. I think it is an extremely hopeful holiday. And, again I think what better thing is there to celebrate.”

In light of officiating Juneteenth as a paid holiday, Columbia College is repurposing the oldest building on campus, Williams Hall,  as the college’s diversity, equity and inclusion center. President Dalrymple said it’s only right the oldest building, built in the mid-1800’s, that may have used slave labor become the DE&I center now.

The paid holiday goes into effect June 19, 2021. Since Juneteenth is on a Saturday next year, employees will observe the holiday on Friday, June 18, 2021.