Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday declared Juneteenth — celebrated on June 19 to commemorate the end of slavery in the U.S. — as an official state holiday, making Virginia, next to Texas, the second state in the country to adopt such a measure.
“It’s time we elevate this,” Northam said. “Not just as a celebration by and for some Virginians, but one acknowledged and celebrated by all of us.”
Northam added that to further commemorate the day, that he would be giving executive branch employees the day off on Friday, June 19 as a paid holiday, and would work with the state legislature to codify Juneteenth as a permanent state holiday.
Famed musician and Virginia native Pharrell Williams, who joined Northam for the announcement, said Juneteenth deserves the same level of recognition and celebration as July 4.
“Here’s our day, and if you love us, it’ll be your day too,” Williams said.
Juneteenth celebrates June 19, 1865, the day African Americans in Texas learned that President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier, freeing slaves in Confederate states.