Kentucky Governor Makes Juneteenth A State Holiday, Bans Hair Discrimination

Governor Andy Beshear

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has signed executive orders establishing Juneteenth as an official executive branch holiday and enacting protections against discrimination based on natural hairstyles, such as braids, locs and twists. The state is now one of among at least 28 others and Washington, D.C., that have recognized Juneteenth as a public holiday, according to Pew Research Center.

“I’ve decided I can no longer wait for others to do what is right,” Beshear stated before signing the orders on May 23. “We must look at it straight on and not hide from our own history, even the parts that are painful. Instead, we recognize it, attempt to learn from it, and work to repair the lasting damage and heal our nation’s wounds so we can make progress for a better tomorrow.”

Juneteenth is a federal holiday commemorating the day enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned they were freed – two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued during the Civil War. President Joe Biden signed legislation establishing it in 2021.

When it comes to hair styles, a 2023 study by the national CROWN Act revealed that nearly half of the Black women feel pressured to conform their hairstyles to European standards, particularly in professional settings. While 22 states had enacted CROWN Acts by 2023, Beshear’s executive order specifically applies to state government employees and job applicants, prohibiting discrimination based on natural hair texture and protective hairstyles.

In addition to the CROWN Act executive order, Beshear’s second order makes Juneteenth an official holiday in Kentucky. This aligns the state with around 28 others that have already recognized the historical significance of June 19, 1865.

Beshear also called on fellow politicians to support future legislation that benefits Black Americans.

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