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Nebraska lawmakers hear two bills related to Black history holidays

Lawmakers hear two bills with similar qualities.
Lawmakers hear two bills with similar qualities.
Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 5:48 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Nebraska lawmakers on Wednesday heard about two bills looking to create new state holidays honoring two critical periods in Black history.

Omaha is the birthplace of civil rights leader Malcolm X; there are 18 acres in the city near 34th and Pinkney streets that a part of his foundation.

The other is Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, which celebrates when slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned they were free in 1865.

If successful, the two different bills would create two separate holidays in Nebraska.

“For an individual, Juneteenth is a reflection on our ability to change. And we have to look no further than President Lincoln himself,” said State Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha, whose proposal would replace Arbor Day with Juneteenth as a state holiday.

Karen Bell-Dancy with YWCA Lincoln spoke in support of the bill.

“While Independence Day marks white Americans’ freedom from British rule, Juneteenth marks an important date for Black Americans — freedom from enslavement,” she said.

State Sen. Terrell McKinney’s bill would make Malcolm X’s birthday — May 19 — a state holiday.

“Globally, Malcolm X is recognized as a cultural figure in the fight against racism, oppression, and human rights. I’ve always been disgusted with the lack of appreciation by our state towards Malcolm X’s efforts,” said McKinney, who represents Omaha.

Devonte Abram cited Gerald Ford, another famous Omaha native, in his statement of support.

“I knew more about President Gerald Ford growing up than I did Malcolm X. Gerald Ford is from Omaha; so was Malcolm X. But it was Gerald Ford who decided in 1976 that Black History Month should be a national celebration,” Abram said.

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