Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has made it official: Juneteenth is now recognized as a state holiday.
Baker, a Republican, signed the measure on Friday as part of a supplemental coronavirus spending bill. He said making June 19 an annual state holiday would help “recognize the continued need to ensure racial freedom and equality.”
While Juneteenth wasn’t previously designated as a state official holiday in Massachusetts, former Gov. Deval Patrick, the state’s first Black governor, signed a proclamation in 2007 that recognized it.
Juneteenth – a mix between June and nineteenth – is the oldest known US celebration of the end of slavery. It commemorates June 19, 1865, the day that Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and told slaves about their emancipation from slavery.
Granger’s announcement came more than two years after former President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
Since Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth a holiday in 1980, 47 US states and the District of Columbia have commemorated the day by either marking it as a state holiday or observance. Cities and universities across the country have also begun to acknowledge the date as one that deserves more recognition.
But despite a continued push by activists over the years, there’s still no federal holiday commemorating Juneteenth. The US Senate passed a resolution recognizing June 19 as “Juneteenth Independence Day,” but a similar resolution has not been approved by the House.
This year’s Juneteenth came in the midst of a racial reckoning, as demonstrations and massive Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the nation in the aftermath of the May 25 killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.