WCYB reports Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday that he will propose making Juneteenth — a day that commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. — an official holiday in a state that was once home to the capital of the Confederacy.
Juneteenth, which is also called Emancipation Day and Freedom Day, is celebrated annually on June 19. Texas first made it a state holiday in 1980.
“It’s time we elevate this,” Northam said of the June 19 commemoration. “Not just a celebration by and for some Virginians but one acknowledged and celebrated by all of us.”
The holiday would be a paid day off for all state employees. Northam said he thinks Virginia would be only the second state to do so.
Northam was joined Tuesday at his news conference by musician Pharrell Williams, who is from Virginia. “This is a very special moment,” Williams said.
The holiday commemorates June 19, 1865, when news finally reached African Americans in Texas that President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves living in Confederate states two years earlier. When Union soldiers arrived in Galveston to bring the news that slavery had been abolished, former slaves celebrated.
Per CNN, Northam confirmed in 2019 he was in a racist yearbook photo showing one person dressed in blackface and another in the KKK’s signature white hood and robes, and apologized for “the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now.”
The photograph, which was obtained by CNN, appears in the 1984 yearbook for Eastern Virginia Medical School. Northam did not say whether he was wearing the KKK outfit or blackface.
Video from Feb 1, 2019: