CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – A new federal holiday was signed into law on Thursday. It’s the first since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.
President Biden signed Juneteenth into law as a federal holiday on Thursday, and Governor Jim Justice followed suit by declaring it a state holiday in West Virginia.
The day celebrates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to let the enslaved African-Americans know they were now free.
The black community has celebrated Juneteenth for decades.
Organizers for the Black Heritage Festival in Clarksburg said that the day should be used as reflection to help bring everyone together.
“The observance and recognition of this federal, paid holiday gives us all an opportunity to reflect and recommit ourselves to working together and building support to make a difference,” said Dorian James, vice chairmen of the Black Heritage Festival.
Most federal and state buildings across West Virginia were closed in observance on Friday, as June 19 falls on a Saturday this year.
The first state to observe Juneteenth was Texas in 1979, but now, it will be observed all over the country.