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Juneteenth Could Soon Become An Official State Holiday

photo of delegate lamont bagby
FILE PHOTO: Craig Carper/VPM

The General Assembly is now considering making the celebration of the end of slavery a permanent state holiday.

Earlier this year, Gov. Ralph Northam proclaimed Juneteenth a holiday in 2020. The bill from Del. Lamont Bagby and Sen. Mamie Locke would make June 19 a permanent legal holiday in Virginia, meaning state workers will get the day off. 

Bagby said the day has always been one of celebration for the Black community and its allies, and he’s hoping an official designation will lead to wider recognition.

“It’s my hope that the Congress and president will act and make it a national holiday, but it was important for us to do it ahead of them so we could illustrate our support,” he said. 

The Juneteenth holiday celebrates the day in 1865 when the last enslaved people in Texas were told that the Civil War ended and they were free. That day was more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.

Richmond and Petersburg already announced earlier this year that they will observe Juneteenth, closing city offices and public libraries. 

Both Bagby’s and Locke’s bills have passed their respective houses and have switched over for approval from the other chamber. If passed and signed into law by Northam, Virginia would become one of only four states to close government offices and give workers the day off. Private employers would not be required to give their employees the day off.