Governor Ralph Northam announced he is proposing legislation to make Juneteenth, celebrated June 19, an official state holiday. In accordance with the Governor’s direction that all executive branch state offices close for Juneteenth, Southwest Virginia Community College will be closed on Friday, June 19, 2020.
For those unfamiliar with Juneteenth, it celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. It is also known as Emancipation Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, and Black Independence Day. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX, and announced the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery. Although the Emancipation Proclamation came 2½ years earlier on January 1, 1863, many slave owners continued to hold their slaves captive after the announcement, so Juneteenth became a symbolic date representing African American freedom.
“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.”
– President Abraham Lincoln
How Can You Celebrate Juneteenth?
There are a wide variety of ways to celebrate Juneteenth, even under our current circumstances with respect to social distancing.
- Discuss with family, friends, and coworkers the history of Juneteenth, what it means, and what we can all do to help end racism and discrimination
- Make a plan or pledge to commit to improving our society through inclusivity and increasing equality
- Cook a traditional-style holiday meal with your family
- Read the Emancipation Proclamation
- Thank those who are helping in the battle against racism
- Attend virtual events or get-togethers with friends and families