Home Madison Juneteenth now a paid holiday for Dane County government employees

Juneteenth now a paid holiday for Dane County government employees

Juneteenth in Madison (Photo by A. David Dahmer)

“Juneteenth is a day where I sit down and I reflect upon how far we’ve come and how can work to create a better, more equitable future for all communities,” says Shelia Stubbs. “It’s a time where I get a chance to support even more Black-owned businesses and I get to see community elders that I haven’t seen in a long time and to participate in different activities. It’s all held in south Madison in a district I represent. So I am so excited about this resolution.”

On Aug. 13, the Dane County board of supervisors passed a resolution making Juneteenth a paid holiday for all Dane County employees. Stubbs, who represents District 23 for the Dane County Board, has been championing the resolution for quite a while and says that she appreciates the tremendous support the resolution has received from Dane County Board colleagues and staff, AFSCME Dane Local, AFSCME Wisconsin and Madison African-American elders Linda Hoskins and Sadie Pearson.

“And, of course, Annie Weatherby Flowers, who has been the catalyst to remind me of what I need to do in these really critical positions,” Stubbs says of Weatherby Flowers, who along with Mona Winston, is one of the founders of Madison’s annual Juneteenth celebration. “In Dane County, I feel like we are leaders in this nation and I believe that we are one of seven or eight counties across the United States that have actually made Juneteenth a paid holiday.”

The vote on the Juneteenth resolution was unanimous. 

“It was a roll call vote because I really believe in having people line up with their belief systems. That was important for me,” Stubbs says.

Shelia Stubbs

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, a day when African-American slaves in Texas were told by Union forces that they were free. They were the final group of slaves to realize their freedom. Deep in the Confederacy, they were unaware of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation almost two years earlier. A celebration of the day has been held annually in Texas ever since, which eventually spread to other states.

“Juneteenth is just a really important day for celebrating our heritage.  Growing up in Beloit, I have participated in Juneteenth Celebrations since I was little. I was actually in a Juneteenth Pageant and I was named Miss Personality and Miss Photogenic, among other things. In Beloit, it was a huge celebration with parades and family and fun,” Stubbs remembers.

The Madison Juneteenth Day Celebration was established in 1990 to celebrate and carry on the legacy of Juneteenth and the rich heritage of African Americans. Juneteenth has been celebrated in Wisconsin since 1971 in Milwaukee. It was declared a Wisconsin State Holiday on December 1, 2009.

“I arrived in Madison in 1993 and I have participated in Juneteenth Celebrations in Madison since 1990. When I go out to these Juneteenth Celebrations I know that it really honors the influence our history of African Americans and really recognizes our resilience of Black people and how we’ve made so many contributions to our community in Dane County, Wisconsin, the United States and the world,” says Stubbs, who also serves in the  Wisconsin State Assembly.

 The resolution points out that Juneteenth is a day to reflect upon how the community can work to create a better, more equitable future for all members of the community, one where African Americans in Dane County and everywhere can realize the freedom and equality first promised by the Emancipation Proclamation over 150 years ago.

Young women celebrate Madison’s Juneteenth at Penn Park. (Photo by A. David Dahmer)

“It is a day to celebrate and honor the influence and the history of African Americans and to recognize the resilience, intellect, and the many contributions the African American community has made to Dane County, Wisconsin, and the United States,” the resolution states. “Even in 2020 in the United States of America, the legacy of slavery is felt daily by African Americans, and the promise of liberation has yet to be fulfilled, as evidenced by a lack of equal access to educational and economic opportunity, in challenged health outcomes, and in disproportionate and sometimes life-threatening interaction with law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

Stubbs says that we are “fortunate to have great employees working for Dane County” and that she hopes they can use the day to “share the critical work we are doing to move the dial on racial equity in Dane County”

“Juneteenth has meant so much to me, my family, my community, and my church in Madison over the years. It was such an honor to introduce this resolution to have Juneteenth be a paid holiday for Dane County government employees,” Stubbs says. “I’ve gotten so many wonderful positive responses from so many people. It made me feel really good. These little things that I can do hopefully will make a big impact along the way.”