As Juneteenth becomes a federal holiday, what happens in North Carolina?

·2 min read

Ribs, potato salad and red soda water.

That is the meal that Sen. Paul Lowe, a Winston-Salem Democrat, remembers eating as a child as he and his family celebrated Juneteenth, a day that is unofficially honored nationally to mark the ending of slavery in the United States.

Created in Galveston, Texas, in 1866, Juneteenth is celebrated annually on June 19.

Earlier this year, Lowe reached across the aisle to his colleague in the Forsyth County delegation, Sen. Joyce Krawiec, a Republican, and together with a handful of cosponsors filed a bill to recognize Juneteenth in North Carolina.

They filed Senate Bill 143 on Feb. 25 — and it hasn’t been touched since that date. But Lowe said Thursday morning that he had received a call Wednesday that his bill may get a second chance.

“The Rules (Committee) chairman called me yesterday and said he was going to move the bill forward,” Lowe said. “So whenever it goes forward it goes forward. That’s all I know.”

But the federal government might make Lowe’s bill a moot point.

Congress voted this week to make Juneteenth a national holiday. President Joe Biden was expected to sign that into law Thursday.

If that happens, North Carolina has an existing law that says the state will automatically recognize the day as well.

In 2007, former Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat, signed House Bill 1607 into law. It would automatically recognize June 19 if federal lawmakers ever voted to make Juneteenth a national holiday.

It’s unclear if that law would create a state holiday or just offer recognition of the day. Lawmakers said they’re looking into that.

As for Lowe’s bill, he said he sought only recognition of the day. He said the federal law, though, would open a new conversation for state lawmakers to create a holiday in North Carolina.

Lowe said recognizing Juneteenth in North Carolina is long overdue.

“I think it’s important we recognize the ending of slavery in America,” Lowe said.

The senator said he grew up celebrating Juneteenth in Seattle where it was much more heavily recognized. But he added that moving to Dallas, Texas, for college opened his eyes to just how big the holiday celebration is in other parts of the country.

“In Texas it was just unbelievable,” Lowe said. “A lot of barbecuing, a lot of brisket and a lot of ribs and red soda water.”

For more North Carolina government and politics news, listen to the Under the Dome politics podcast from The News & Observer and the NC Insider. You can find it at or wherever you get your podcasts.

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