Juneteenth has officially become a legal holiday in Washington State.
Beginning in 2022, June 19 will be a paid day off for workers in accordance with House Bill 1016, part of the slate of bills signed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday.
Juneteenth — also known as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Liberation day — is a holiday celebrating the emancipation of last enslaved Black folk in the United States when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas.
The news came to Texas nearly three years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
According to the Seattle Times, Inslee said he was honored to sign the “joyous bill” among a slate of other bills he signed at the state capitol.
“The holiday is a celebration of the resiliency and spirit of Black Americans, reminding us of our country’s past moral failures, alongside a persistent hope for a more equitable future,” he told the Seattle Times.
The bill was passed through the Washington State House in February and the Senate in April. It was sponsored by Rep. Melanie Morgan, D-Parkland.
“My hope is that Juneteenth will be a holiday celebrated by all Washingtonians, like July 4th, a holiday that brings us together in fellowship,” Morgan said.
“This says we belong as Black African-Americans. That we are humans. And I believe it’s another step toward declaring Washington state as an anti-racist state,” she added.
47 states officially recognize Juneteenth as a holiday, including Washington. The new law now makes it a paid day off. Texas was the first state to officially recognize Juneteenth as a holiday in 1980.
The move comes amid a period of national reflection that came after the killing of George Floyd last year and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests which put the issue of systemic racism in the U.S. under a global spotlight.