Gov. Ned Lamont talks to Sara Chaney after a ceremonial signing of a bill making Juneteenth a state holiday. “My grandmother was born to freed slaves,” Chaney told the gathering in New London earlier this month. “She was born seven years after the Emancipation Proclamation.” / Photo, CTMirror.org

WESTPORT — Juneteenth, a celebration of the date when final word of freedom reached slaves in Texas in 1865 — two years after the Emancipation Proclamation — falls on Sunday, June 19.

Westport, joining federal and state officials in formally recognizing the event, will close Town Hall on Monday, June 20, in observance of the holiday.

First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker, in a statement announcing the decision to close Town Hall, said, “On June 17, 2021, President Biden signed the ‘Juneteenth National Independence Day Action,’ establishing June 19, the date marking the end of slavery in the United States, as a federal holiday. 

“On May 27, 2022,” Tooker added, “Gov. Lamont signed legislation recognizing Juneteenth as a legal state holiday in Connecticut. Although that action will not become effective statewide until 2023, I believe the recognition and commemoration of this historically significant date in our collective American history is worthy of a holiday for Town of Westport employees starting this year.”

Lamont, at a June 9 event surrounded by members of the legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus and others who advocated for official recognition of Juneteenth, ceremonially signed the legislation aboard a replica of the slave ship, Amistad.

The 1839 rebellion on the original Amistad, and trials of the kidnapped Africans who mutinied against their enslavement, proved a rallying cry for abolitionists working to officially end slavery in Connecticut. 

The Africans were jailed in New Haven during litigation over their case, which ended in 1841 when the U.S. Supreme Court ordered them freed.

Lamont, as he signed the Juneteenth legislation, invoked philosopher George Santayana’s admonition that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

“It reminds me of those that want to airbrush our history,” the governor said. “It’s dangerous if you’re not willing to learn from our past. And I think that’s what Juneteenth is all about.”

With reporting by the CTMirror.org.