SPRINGFIELD, IL– On Wednesday Governor J.B Pritzker signed legislation declaring June 19, Juneteenth, an official state holiday. Juneteenth will be officially recognized as National Freedom Day across Illinois.

Juneteenth is the oldest known US celebration of the end of slavery. It commemorates the anniversary of the day slaves in Galveston, Texas were informed of their freedom. Slaves in Galveston were the last known enslaved people in the United States, and they were notified of their freedom almost three years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

“Just as Illinois led the nation as the first state to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, in 2021, we are leading the nation in tackling structural racism head on thanks to the guiding vision of Leader Lightford, Representative Ford, Speaker Welch and the entire Illinois Legislative Black Caucus,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “It brings me exceptional pride to sign into law the declaration of Juneteenth as a formal state holiday in Illinois, making us one of the few states in the nation to give it the full status it deserves.”

Illinois will recognize the holiday by lowering flags to half-staff. Additionally, every year a Juneteenth flag will fly over the state capitol.

House Bill 3922 will be a paid holiday for state workers and public education professionals when June 19 falls on a weekday.

“Today is the first day for Illinois to officially recognize the pain of the black enslaved and a day to move forward with work to repair the harms for black people,” Representative LaShawn Ford (D-Chicago) said.

UPDATE: On Wednesday, the U.S Senate passed legislature making Juneteenth a federal holiday.