Yesterday, the New York State Legislature passed a bill that would designate the second Monday in July each year as Abolition Commemoration Day. New York was one of the first states to abolish slavery in the U.S., but it has never fully acknowledged or atoned for the horrors of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, nor has the State ever honored those leaders who fought to abolish slavery with a public holiday. By designating a state-wide holiday, New York will commemorate the Abolition Act that was passed by New York State legislators on March 31st, 1817, which abolished slavery in New York State effective July 4th, 1827.
“The passing of this bill marks a historic time here in New York State,” said Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie. “Having the ability to now, not only celebrate Abolition Commemoration Day as an individual, but also have this day solidified as a state wide holiday, gives many that have come before us the notoriety they so deserve. The abolitionist movement brought forth the end to the practice of slavery here in the United States. We acknowledge that we cannot erase the centuries of pain African Americans as well as people of color have felt for generations, but this recognition is one that we should celebrate. I would like to thank all who have had a hand in bringing us forward to where we are today, and I would like to extend my gratitude to the New York State Director of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, retired public school educator and my constituent Bessie Jackson who for years has advocated for this recognition.”
“As our nation finally begins coming to grips with the consequences of systemic racism and the disparate impact it has had on people of color and African-Americans in particular, we must not forget that New York State has never fully acknowledged or atoned for the horrors of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. More importantly, we have yet to honor those leaders who fought bravely to abolish slavery. I am proud to announce the passage of my bill designating the second Monday in July of each year as a day of commemoration to be known as Abolition Commemoration day. Nothing can remove the generational damage that resulted from the trans-Atlantic slave trade, but we can at least start by setting aside one day a year to honor the brave abolitionists and atone for having engaged in the process of maintaining an exploitative, abusive, and disparaging society for countless generations,” said Bill Sponsor, State Senator Jamaal T. Bailey.
“Slavery was not an institution confined to the south – New York had its own long history with its cruelty and horrors. Our state also has a legacy of abolitionists like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman and countless others,” Bill Sponsor, Assemblymember Gary Pretlow said. “By recognizing Abolition Commemoration Day, we remember and shed light on both sides of Black and African American history, and New York State’s history, including the parts that are too often glossed over.”
“Freedom was never given, it was fought for. Yesterday marks the creation of a new holiday – Abolition Commemoration Day – to recognize the end of slavery in New York State and a start to teaching our full uncompromised history. New York was one of the largest slave-holding states in this country and we are convinced that a civilized state should do no less than spend at least one day a year in atonement for its participation in the horror, fear and trauma that sustained slavery for more than 200 years. We are proud to have led this fight and stand with the entire state legislature to recognize the sacrifices of African Americans and other abolitionists in their fight for freedom,” said Bessie M. Jackson, NYS Director of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
This bill will take effect on January 1st, 2021.