Activists react to Governor Northam’s proposal to make Juneteenth a paid state holiday

Updated: Jun. 16, 2020 at 10:38 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The call to mark a new paid state holiday is welcome news to African American historians and other advocates.

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, is celebrated on June 19th. It commemorates the official end of slavery in the United States and people say this has been a long time coming.

“My first thought is that it’s about time,” Charlene Green, activist and previous manager of the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights said.

“This is something people have been working on for a long time,” Andrea Douglas, Jefferson School African American Heritage Center Director said.

June 19, 1865 celebrates when the last slaves were freed in Galveston, Texas.

“It’s about time that the history of African Americans is included in ways that allows us - especially as a state - to recognize the contributions,” Green said.

Some feel Governor Northam’s efforts are to be applauded and that Juneteenth is similar to July 4th.

“This has always marked that moment where we are moving out of one period of enslavement and then allegedly moving into the moment of freedom,” Douglas said.

Activists say America was built on the backs of slaves and are happy those people might get credit.

“When you think about how this country started 401 years ago when the first slave ships came to Jamestown or to the shores of Virginia, that's where the history of the United States actually begins,” Green said.

“It's lifting up a history that has not been addressed enough in America,” Douglas said. “We want to celebrate, but you also want to spend some time learning the history."

Friday, June 19 at 6 p.m. there will be a Juneteenth celebration at Booker T. Washington Park in Charlottesville. It’s a free family-friendly event with music, food and more.

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