On Thursday, June 17, 2021 President Joe Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth, June 19th, the 12th federal holiday in the United States. June 19 is now recognized as Juneteenth National Independence Day.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers told enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas that they were free — two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the Southern states.
It is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States and has been an official state holiday since January 1, 1980.
Following this news, Maryland’s Governor, Larry Hogan, announced that state government agencies and offices will be closed on Friday, June 18, 2021 in observance of the federal holiday. By law, whenever a national holiday falls on a Saturday, state employees observe the holiday on the preceding Friday.
“This is an important step forward for our country. Maryland is proud to support this legislation, and observe this new national holiday,” said Governor Hogan in a news release.
The Senate passed the bill on Wednesday under a unanimous consent agreement that expedites the process for considering legislation. One senator’s objection could have blocked the bill from passing.
Governor Hogan also issued a proclamation honoring Juneteenth and the importance of what this means for the United States. In his proclamation, he states that Juneteenth has come to symbolize freedom for African Americans just as 4th of July does for Americans. He invites Marylanders to join in on this observance.
Juneteenth is often celebrated with lots of activities such as barbecues and is used as a time to promote and cultivate the knowledge and appreciation of African American history and culture.