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Maine Business Faces Backlash After Racist Sign During Juneteenth Holiday

MILLINOCKET, Maine (WABI) - An insurance agency posted a sign to its door ahead of Juneteenth reading, "Juneteenth, it's whatever... we're closed. Enjoy your fried chicken and collard greens."

The Harry E Reed Insurance Agency in Millinocket was one of those businesses and displayed a closed sign on the door that read: "Juneteenth. It's whatever... We're closed. Enjoy your fried chicken and collard greens."

A photo of the sign was shared on social media, sparking many negative comments. Community members were outraged after seeing the sign.

“I would love to see better for this community, and I think a lot of people would like to see better for this community. As a business owner, it's just not something you do. It really isn't,” Millinocket resident Lisa Groelly told WVII.

The town of Millinocket released a statement critical of the sign:

“It is deeply saddening, disgraceful, and unacceptable for any person, business, or organization to attempted to make light of Juneteenth and what it represents for millions of slaves and their living descendants. There is no place in the Town of Millinocket for such a blatant disregard of human decency. The Town of Millinocket is a beautiful place to live filled with welcoming, kind, and hardworking people. As such, the town does not accept or endorse anything short of inclusively, and we invite any and all to come discover the wonderful things that our community offers.”

The sign has since been taken down.

Juneteenth honors the date — June 19, 1865 — that Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, alerting Black people there that slavery had been abolished two years prior. Emancipation for Black people in the United States did not instantly come on June 19, 1865, or even two years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863, when President Lincoln presented the Emancipation Proclamation.

According to University of Maine history professor Mary Freeman, since that date, the day has been celebrated regularly by Black Americans, but more recently has entered the public mainstream.

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