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Warren County councilwoman accused of racism for comments about Juneteenth resolution

Councilwoman Louann Cox said there were "95 million" more important things

WASHINGTON BOROUGH, NJ (Warren County) — A councilwoman was accused of racism for her public comments about a resolution commemorating the liberation of slaves.

Borough Council was discussing a measure to recognize Juneteenth during a June 1 virtual meeting when Republican Councilwoman, Louann Cox, spoke up to question the purpose of the resolution. 

“It’s for the black slavery history?” Cox asked her colleagues before a vote on the resolution.  “Were not white people in there also? To me, it doesn’t seem like something the Borough should be getting their hands into.”

Mayor David Higgins, also a Republican, tried to explain the resolution, which recognized the “triumph of the human spirit over the harshness of slavery,” and the significance of June 19th — the date in 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Texas to begin freeing some of the last slaves in the country from owners who hadn’t complied with the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. 

Cox also questioned Juneteenth’s relevance today. 

“Why are we celebrating something when there’s like 95 million other things that are of more importance?” Cox asked. “I am sure there’s no African American people that live today that had a most close relationship with a relative that was a slave.” 

That elicited a response from Deputy Mayor Ethel Conry, a Democrat and the only council member who is black. 

“Excuse me?” repeated Conry, who said she was the one who brought up the Juneteenth resolution. 

In a later statement, Conry said that she took offense to Cox’s comments. 

“I do have relatives that are still living that were slaves, to let you know. I have a 101-year-old uncle and I took offense,” said Conry’s statement, clarifying that her uncle personally knew other family members who were slaves.

Warren County Democrats called out Cox’s comments and expressed support for Conry in a statement on Thursday. 

“We can’t keep giving elected officials a pass by chalking their remarks up to ignorance,” said  Warren County Democratic Committee Chairman, Tom Palmieri. “Remarks like this aren’t ignorant, they’re racist.” 

Neither Cox nor Conry have responded to RNJ’s requests for comment. 

During the meeting, Mayor Higgins continued trying to explain the purpose of the resolution, saying it denotes the day that slavery was ended. 

“And I get it, but I need to tell you there are people in this world today that are still considered slaves and they’re not of one color,” Cox responded. “Thank God they’re not! Because those people were put through hell, and I get that. But it was also a white man that got rid of slavery, so we gotta give credit where credit is due to everybody.”

The resolution ultimately passed unanimously. Cox was called on second in an alphabetical roll-call vote but delayed it until after the rest of council had voted in favor.

 

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