SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTWO/WAWV) — Juneteenth, a day celebrating the emancipation of slaves in the United States, is now officially an Illinois state holiday; Gov. JB Pritzker signed a bill Wednesday at a press conference in Springfield, Ill., officially recognizing the day starting in 2022.
Pritzker’s announcement comes just one day after June 19 was voted to be a federal holiday. The U.S. senate passed a similar bill Tuesday that recognizes Juneteenth as a national holiday. The bill is expected to pass through the House as well, which would make Juneteenth the twelfth overall federal holiday.
“Just as Illinois led the nation as the first state to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, in 2021, we are leading the nation in tackling structural racism head on,” Pritzker said. “It brings me exceptional pride to sign into law the declaration of Juneteenth as a formal state holiday in Illinois, making us one of the few states in the nation to give it the full status it deserves.”
Illinois is one of 48 states, including Indiana, to have recognized Juneteenth in official legislature. However, not all of these recognitions have made the day a paid state holiday like Illinois has. To celebrate the day this year, Illinois will lower all flags covered by the Illinois Flag Display Act to half-staff on Saturday and will fly a Juneteenth flag outside of the State Capitol in Springfield, Ill.
Juneteeth marks the day in 1865 when the last slaves were freed in Galveston, Tex., two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Starting in 2022, June 19 will be a school holiday in Illinois and a day off for all state employees.
“Making Juneteenth a state holiday is a breakthrough in Illinois history,” Illinois State Senator Kimberly Lightford said. “It reminds us that freedom and racial equality have always been a hard-fought battle for Black Americans and gives us an opportunity to celebrate our culture and achievements.”