Juneteenth now an official state holiday

Image by Wynn Pointaux from Pixabay

Illinois Gov JB Pritzker on Wednesday signed legislation declaring June 19, Juneteenth, an official state holiday.

Commemorating the Emancipation Proclamation and abolition of slavery in the U.S., it will be recognized as National Freedom Day in Illinois. It goes into effect in 2022.

State Rep. Lakesia Collins (D-Chicago) was a co-sponsor of the bill making Juneteenth an official holiday.

“Recognizing Juneteenth is essential as we all learn about racial injustices that we are still combating today,” said Collins. “This weekend, everyone should slow down to recognize the historic struggle of Black Americans and consider the work that remains to confront the racial injustices that still plague our country.”

“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 thanks to the guiding vision of Leader Lightford, Representative Ford, Speaker Welch and the entire Illinois Legislative Black Caucus,” said Pritzker. “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.”

The legislation clarifies that Juneteenth will be a paid holiday for state workers and public education professionals when June 19 falls on a weekday. Given that June 19 falls on a Sunday in 2022, the first paid state holiday for Juneteenth will be in 2023. Flags at state facilities will fly at half-staff on the holiday. A Juneteenth flag will also fly above the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield.

“Making Juneteenth a state holiday is a breakthrough in Illinois history,” said Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood).”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.”

“Today, we can all stand proud that Illinois will officially recognize America’s second independence day,” said House Speaker Emanuel “Chris”  Welch (D-Westchester). “As the first African-American Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, this moment will forever be a treasure in my heart, and I hope it will become a treasure for all Illinoisans. It’s a day of remembrance, but also a day of joy and perseverance.”

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will display the Emancipation Proclamation through July 6. In addition, the Illinois State Museum will showcase art celebrating Black lives through their Noir Art Exhibition.