Ralph Northam, Governor of Virginia, announced on Tuesday that he will propose officially declaring Juneteenth — a day that commemorates and signifies the end of slavery as known at the time in the U.S. — an official holiday in Virginia. The state served as the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
The announcement came with the support of Virginia native Pharrell.
“This is our chance to lead, to truly embrace the importance of Juneteenth and to treat it as a celebration of freedom that Black people truly deserve,” Pharrell said during the press conference solidifying the announcement.
Juneteenth, which is also called Emancipation Day and Freedom Day, is celebrated annually on June 19. The holiday would be a paid day off for all state employees. Northam said he believes Virginia would be only the second state to do so. Texas first made it a state holiday in 1980.
“It’s time we elevate this,” Northam said of the proposed idea. “Not just a celebration by and for some Virginians but one acknowledged and celebrated by all of us.”
Northam has also announced that all executive branches of the state will be given a paid day off on Friday, June 19th, and Pharrell asked for private businesses to do the same. Since the legislature is mainly democratic controlled right now, there shouldn’t be much pushback.
The announcement comes after Northam has ordered the removal of a statue commemorating Confederate leader Robert E. Lee in Richmond. Earlier this year, Northam also scrapped Lee-Jackson Day as a state holiday in Virginia, proving that Virginia continues to be on the right side of history after years of racial injustice.