Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Tuesday said that he will propose making Juneteenth — a cultural holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved black people in the United States — a paid holiday in the commonwealth.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger read federal orders in Texas that all previously enslaved people in the state were free.
“It’s time we elevate this,” Northam said. “Not just a celebration by and for some Virginians but one acknowledged and celebrated by all of us.”
“Some might say change in a state holiday is merely a symbolic action,” he added. “But symbols do matter. If they didn’t, people wouldn’t be fighting so hard to keep Confederate flags and statues up. Symbols show what we value. This symbol, this holiday, is one step toward reconciliation.”
Northam was flanked by hip-hop producer and Virginia native, Pharrell Williams, who said Juneteenth should be celebrated in a similar fashion to Independence Day.
“Here’s our day, and if you love us, it’ll be your day too,” he stated.
Last year, Northam was forced to apologize for a yearbook showing two men— one of them of himself— in blackface and the other in Klu Klux Klan attire.
On Friday, President Donald Trump announced that he would postpone his rally scheduled for June 19 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, acknowledging that his black supporters had advised him about the potential conflicts with the date.
“We had previously scheduled our MAGA Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for June 19th – a big deal,” the president tweeted at the time. “Unfortunately, however, this would fall on the Juneteenth Holiday.”
“Many of my African American friends and supporters have reached out to suggest that we consider changing the date out of respect for this Holiday, and in observance of this important occasion and all that it represents,” he added.