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Northam moves to make Juneteenth a state holiday

17 June 2020 Luray/Page County Shenandoah County Front Royal/Warren County Winchester Frederick County Clarke County News

Gov. Northam announced yesterday in a press conference that he will introduce legislation to make Juneteenth a state holiday. Virginia has long marked Juneteenth by issuing a proclamation, but the date has not previously been considered a state holiday.

Juneteenth is the oldest known commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865,  Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, and told slaves of their emancipation – more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and months after the end of the Civil War.

Musician Pharrell Williams, a Virginia native, joined Northam for the announcement.

“This is our chance to lead, to truly embrace the importance of Juneteenth and to treat it as a celebration of freedom that black people truly deserve,” Williams said during the conference.

Virginia House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert, of Shenandoah County, expressed his support for the proposed legislation.

“July 4th is the birthday of our nation, but Juneteenth is the day where it truly began to fulfill its promise of freedom for all,” said Gilbert.

This announcement comes days after Northam declared the state will remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee located on Monument Avenue in Richmond. In April, he also signed a bill into law that removed the Lee-Jackson Day holiday and instead established Election Day as a holiday. 

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here. 

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