A bill at the Maryland General Assembly would make Juneteenth a state holiday. The legislation would make the day celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of slavery a state and employee-paid holiday.

We strongly support this effort — and it should garner strong support across the Eastern Shore, considering our history with slavery and the abolitionist movement. This issue should be something that helps unite us — and not sow political, social and class divisions. We have enough of those.

This holiday is an important part of our communities and our heritage. It can help us all learn from that history and can help bring our communities closer together. This holiday can and should be a community celebration of our freedoms and our rich, complex and sometimes unjust history here on the Shore.

On June 19, 1865, two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Union soldiers finally arrived in Texas to tell people the Civil War — and slavery — were over.

That day, known as Juneteenth, has been celebrated unofficially in the African American community, and in 1980, Texas became the first state to officially make Juneteenth a holiday.

The history of the Eastern Shore — including the influences and impacts of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad — should make our communities top backers of making Juneteenth an official holiday.

A Juneteenth holiday is another great way to promote the Shore, our history and heritage to visitors. We see the tourism, economic and cultural benefits of Douglass and Tubman.

This is another great local opportunity.

We have continued to hear about the need to not erase history, to learn from it, to find ways to be better neighbors.

A Juneteenth holiday is a chance to celebrate an important moment in our country’s history. We can learn historical and contemporary lessons from it.

Let’s make the holiday official here in Maryland and across the country.

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