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Kentucky Governor Declares Juneteenth a State Holiday, Enacts Hair Discrimination Ban

by CiCi
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Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has taken significant steps toward promoting equality and acknowledging historical injustices by signing two executive orders. These orders establish Juneteenth as an official state holiday and ban discrimination based on natural hairstyles such as braids, locs, and twists. With this move, Kentucky joins at least 28 other states and Washington, D.C., in recognizing 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 declared on May 23 while signing the orders. “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.”

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Juneteenth: A Symbol of Freedom

Juneteenth commemorates the day enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned of their freedom—two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued during the Civil War. President Joe Biden established Juneteenth as a federal holiday in 2021, recognizing its profound historical significance.

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Addressing Hair Discrimination

The second executive order signed by Beshear addresses hair discrimination, a pervasive issue that affects many Black women. According to a 2023 study by the national CROWN Act, nearly half of Black women feel pressured to conform their hairstyles to European standards, especially in professional settings. Although 22 states had enacted CROWN Acts by 2023, Beshear’s order specifically protects state government employees and job applicants from discrimination based on natural hair texture and protective hairstyles.

Moving Forward

In addition to the CROWN Act executive order, Beshear’s actions formally recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday, aligning Kentucky with other states that honor June 19, 1865. Beshear also urged other politicians to support future legislation that benefits Black Americans, emphasizing the need for continued progress in addressing systemic inequalities.

These measures reflect a commitment to creating a more inclusive and equitable society, acknowledging past wrongs, and fostering an environment where all individuals are free to express their cultural identity without fear of discrimination.

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