Observe Juneteenth in Virginia

How should Virginia observe Juneteenth?

One hundred and fifty-five years ago today, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas and informed the people there that the Civil War had ended and all enslaved people were free – two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. It took that long for the news of liberation to reach the people of Texas. Freedom was celebrated that day and has been celebrated every June 19th since.

But Juneteenth has not received the same social or political recognition ­as our nation’s other Independence Day – one that occurred nearly 100 years earlier and did not entail independence for all Americans. That will soon change in Virginia. Earlier this week, Governor Northam declared Juneteenth a paid state holiday for employees of the executive branch and announced his support for legislation that would extend this holiday statewide. I support making Juneteenth a Virginia holiday and will work to see this become law.

On June 19th, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger read General Order Number 3 to the people of Texas: “This [emancipation] involves an absolute equality of rights.”

I hope we all are able to take a moment today to reflect on this date’s significance. Juneteenth is Black history. It is the celebration of a freedom that arrived late to Galveston in 1865, and a freedom whose full manifestation has yet to be realized. Juneteenth is American history. We should all observe this day – not segregated by race but unified as Virginians who strive for a true and absolute equality of rights.