NJ bills make Juneteenth holiday, abolish freeholder title

| 07 Aug 2020 | 04:46

(AP) New Jersey lawmakers passed two bills on July 30 aimed at addressing racial injustice, one making Juneteenth a state holiday and another abolishing the county-level title of freeholder, which sponsors say alludes to a time when Black people and women were excluded from government. The measures passed the Democrat-led Legislature and head next to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, who earlier indicated he supports both bills. Juneteenth marks June 19, 1865, when word reached enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, that the Civil War had ended and they were free. New Jersey is the only state in the country to use the title freeholder for county government officials. Under the bill, they will be referred to as county commissioners. The bill’s sponsors say the title calls to mind the state’s colonial past when property ownership was limited to white men. Plus, the sponsors say, the title was frequently confusing for voters who were unsure what it meant. The title itself referred to someone who held property free of any debt. “Things are coming to a head right now because we’re in this moment of global racial reckoning,” said Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway in a video posted on Gov. Murphy’s Twitter account. “So many different aspects of how one became a citizen, how one -- well first acquired property -- became a citizen, was able to vote, was able to hold office, was tied to a very particular phenomenon, being male and being white and being free.’’