On Wednesday Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed a law officially recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday in the state.
The law designates June 19 as “Juneteenth National Freedom Day.” In a press release, Governor Wolf said that the day “should be a reminder to us – as individuals, as institutions – to recommit to liberty, justice and equality, so we can move our nation forward, providing opportunities and promoting success for all.” Although it is a step in the right direction, the new law does not require employers to treat Juneteenth as an official holiday. Many advocates want to see the day become a national holiday.
Juneteenth is the longest nationally celebrated holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. It marks the day in June 1865, two and a half years after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, when Major General Gordon Granger informed the people of Texas that all enslaved people were free. The day has a complicated history, as many slaveholders in Texas tried to withhold the news from the freedmen. Some, who did hear the news, were forced back into work. However, the freedmen in Texas rallied behind the date and celebrated the first Juneteenth in 1866.