Juneteenth is now both a state and federal holiday after lawmakers at both levels of government passed measures this week. 13th Congressional District Representative Rodney Davis says passage of the legislation is a good thing.
“I think it’s something that does need to be commemorated. I’ve done Juneteenth parades in Springfield, and Juneteenth events in the past. You know, we celebrate a lot of our history and I think we take for granted that we have instant access to information.
Remember, Juneteenth exists because news didn’t travel as fast back when Abe Lincoln offered the Emancipation Proclamation. So, it took a while for slavery to actually end in our country. That’s what Juneteenth’s about and I certainly don’t have any objection to having it as a holiday at all.”
Davis currently has two measures up for consideration in Congress aimed at recognizing and expanding sites in Central Illinois related to Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation to Juneteenth and the NAACP.
Last week Davis introduced legislation that would expand the Abraham Lincoln Home Historic site in Springfield. Davis says his measure is companion legislation to Senator Dick Durbin’s legislation in the U.S. Senate that would expand some of the areas of the Lincoln Home historic area, to take in other historic sites.
The Lincoln Home site is managed by the National Park Service. Davis says this would make expansion of the site easy to accommodate historic sites related to Lincoln and his legacy.
“The personnel are there through the National Park Service, and through the Department of Interior. We have so many other historical events that relate to Lincoln and his Emancipation Proclamation, and the ending of slavery. So, why not recognize the Springfield race riot that happened in 1908?
Why not recognize some of the other historical artifacts in and around the Lincoln Home area? Let’s expand it. It’s the right thing to do. It will bring more people in and frankly we ought to encourage more tourist activity, something that hasn’t happened over the last few months.”
In late February Davis re-introduced legislation to designate the site of the 1908 Springfield Race Riot as a National Historic Monument. The site consists of the remains of five homes that were burned to the ground during the riots. The remains were unearthed during the construction of the Springfield Rail Improvements Project.
Davis says ultimately the riots that occurred at the site played an integral role in the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and, at the time, demonstrated that racial injustice was not an isolated issue only in the South, but one to be addressed across the country.
“It truly did, and I have to give a lot of credit to the local Springfield NAACP. They’ve done a great job in helping us lead the charge to move forward on recognition of the site. And now the expansion of the Lincoln Home site would be the next step. It’s going along with the reconnaissance studies that are happening right now at the 1908 site that we were able to get put in place by Secretary Bernhardt and the Department of Interior during the Trump administration.”
According to the National Park Service, the reconnaissance survey to evaluate the archaeological significance of the site found that it “is likely to meet the criteria for inclusion into the National Park system.
A special resource study will further evaluate the site for inclusion in the National Park System, invite public involvement in the study process, and develop potential management alternatives for the site.