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Virginia Governor to Propose Juneteenth as State Holiday


Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday that he'll propose making Juneteenth an official holiday in a state that was once home to the capital of the Confederacy.

Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. It is also called Emancipation Day and Freedom Day. It's celebrated annually on June 19. Texas first made it a state holiday in 1980.

The holiday commemorates June 19, 1865, when news finally reached African Americans in Texas that President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves living in Confederate states two years earlier. When Union soldiers arrived in Galveston to bring the news that slavery had been abolished, former slaves celebrated.

Virginia has previously commemorated Juneteenth with an annual proclamation but Governor Northam says now is the time to do more. “I will propose legislation to make Juneteenth a paid state holiday. While we and 44 other states ceremonially commemorate Juneteenth, this action will formalize that observance.”

Should lawmakers pass that legislation, Virginia would become only the second state to observe Juneteenth with a paid holiday.

Virginia Beach native and musician Pharrell Williams helped Northam make the announcement.  “July 4th 1776 – not everybody was free and celebrating their Independence Day," Williams said.  "So here’s our day, and if you love us, it’ll be your day too.”

Williams also called on Virginia-based companies to commemorate the holiday by giving their employees the day off.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

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Nick Gilmore is a meteorologist, news producer and reporter/anchor for RADIO IQ. Nick joined the newsroom in 2016 and forecasts the weather for most of the state. He also works to get RADIO IQ’s award-winning journalism ready for broadcast.