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On Tuesday, with the help of Pharrell Williams, Governor Ralph Northam announced that Virginia will recognize Juneteenth as a paid state holiday.

The legendary producer joined Governor Northam for his press conference in Richmond–the former capital of the Confederacy and Virginia’s current state capital–where he explained why the state is going to legally acknowledge the holiday moving forward.

“[Juneteenth] matters now because it says to the black community, this is not just your history, this is everyone’s shared history, and we recognize it together,” said Gov. Northam, according to the Daily Press. “This symbol, this holiday, is one step toward reconciliation.”

Juneteenth has been recognized as a holiday within the Black community for over 150 years. While it’s widely believed that the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in 1863, President Lincoln signing the law didn’t mean Southern slave owners abided by that legislation. Two years later, on June 19, 1865, General Granger read “General Order No. 3,” freeing all the slaves in Texas and ending slavery in the Confederate States.

This move in Virginia follows companies like Nike starting to recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday this year in an effort to show their solidarity with Black customers and citizens. According to reports from ABC, 46 states and the District of Columbia now celebrate Juneteenth as a holiday.

Now, in Virginia, state workers will get a paid day off on June 19. Northam is also backing legislation that will allow the holiday to extend to schools, courts, and local governments.



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