Juneteenth becomes an official state holiday in New York and Virginia

Northeast

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 19: Protester chant near the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. statue during a Juneteenth celebration on June 19, 2020 in New York City. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when a Union general read orders in Galveston, Texas stating all enslaved people in Texas were free according to federal law. (Photo by Michael Noble Jr./Getty Images)

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Juneteenth, a day commemorating the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States, is officially a holiday in both New York state and Virginia.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday he signed legislation declaring it an official holiday. Cuomo issued an executive order earlier this year recognizing it as a holiday for state employees. The legislation turned the executive order into an official state law.

“This new public holiday will serve as a day to recognize the achievements of the Black community, while also providing an important opportunity for self-reflection on the systemic injustices that our society still faces today,” said Cuomo in a statement.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam stated in a press conference he had also signed legislation making Juneteenth a state holiday. He had previously announced his proposal to make the day a holiday in June with Virginia native and singer Pharrell at his side.

“Juneteenth is the oldest celebration of the end of slavery in the United States,” Northam said. “It’s time we elevate this, not just to celebration by and for some Virginians, but one acknowledged and celebrated by all of us.”

Juneteenth marks news of slavery’s end reaching enslaved people in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865. The Emancipation Proclamation went into effect January 1, 1863 but it took two years for the announcement to reach those in Galveston.

Texas and New Jersey are the only other two states to recognize the day as a holiday. 44 other states acknowledge the day in some other way according to Congressional Research. Hawaii, North Dakota, and South Dakota are the only states without any formal recognition.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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