CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK/AP)—West Virginia Governor Jim Justice held a last-minute virtual press conference on Thursday to declare Juneteenth an official West Virginia state holiday.
He said that in light of President Joe Biden signing into law a bill that will make June 19th a federal holiday that he would follow suit in the state of West Virginia.
Since Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year, the governor said that Friday, June 18th would serve as the holiday for all state employees. This means that state employees will get this day off from work.
Juneteenth is a holiday that has been celebrated in the Black community for decades, and it commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas — two months after the Confederacy had surrendered. That was also about 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the Southern states.
After Biden signs Thursday’s legislation, Juneteenth becomes the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.