JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Juneteenth is on its way to becoming a federal holiday.
The bill to make it one is expected to be signed into law by President Joe Biden after passing the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate this week. Fourteen Republicans voted against it in the House.
June 19, the date slaves in Galveston, Texas, were finally told they were free back in 1865, will now be commemorated this way more than 150 years later. A federal holiday means most government workers will get the day off work, but Juneteenth is also a reminder it's time to get to work to get rid of racial inequality.
What exactly does that look like? First Coast News brought that question to an expert who teaches about race and American history.
"The renaming of the schools is an important positive step, positive change," said UNF history professor Dr. Felicia Bevel. "Because that is part of the conversation about Black Lives Matter. It's not just police reform, etcetera, but it's also, 'okay, what images are we consuming? What narratives are we producing?'"
Bevel points to the names of six Confederate-named schools changing in Duval County as a big move toward racial equality in Jacksonville. There have been many other changes since last Juneteenth.
"Given everything that has happened this past year, I think students are more willing to talk about how they're coming to the room," Bevel said.
Bevel sees the shift in her college-aged classroom's willingness to talk about race in society and how it's impacting them and believes those conversations should begin at a younger age.
"We're not going to get anywhere if we don't start having these conversations," she said. "I think we are doing that, again, with the school renaming process. That really has opened up a conversation at the community level."
A bill now sits on Governor Ron DeSantis's desk on police reform that in part would limit the use of chokeholds and require more de-escalation training.
Confederate monuments still stand in Jacksonville, though not as many as just over a year ago. First Coast News is still waiting to hear back from the city on what will happen with the Confederate monuments still standing.