On Tuesday (Jun 16), Pharrell joined Gov. Northam for his press conference in Richmond where he unveiled plans that Virginia will recognize Juneteenth as a paid state holiday.
“[Juneteenth] matters now because it says to the black community, this is not just your history, this is everyone’s shared history, and we recognize it together,” Gov. Northam said per the Daily Press. “This symbol, this holiday, is one step toward reconciliation.”
In observation of this day, state workers will get a paid day off. Northam is also backing legislation that will allow the holiday to extend to schools, courts, and local governments.
Juneteenth, which is observed annually on June 19, is a significant holiday for African Americans because it celebrates the official day that slavery ended in the south. While Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation making it officially in effect on Jan. 1, 1863, ending slavery, the slave owners in the south retreated to Texas with their slaves until Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered two years later in April 1865 allowing union soldiers to dismantle the confederacy and enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. It took until June 18, 1865, for these units to make it through the South and to Galveston where Union General Gordon Granger and his troops took control of the area, freeing all of the slaves in Texas. Upon executing the order, Gen. Granger read “General Order No. 3” on June 19, 1865, officially ending slavery in the Confederate States.
Under the current social climate, many companies including Nike and Twitter, along with political figures are starting to recognize Juneteenth in an effort to show their solidarity with African Americans. Currently, 46 states and the District of Columbia now celebrate Juneteenth as a holiday with Virginia being the latest.
This proposal making the Juneteenth an official state holiday in Virginia will hit the voting block when state lawmakers reconvene for a special budget session in August.