ALBANY — Gov. Cuomo wants to make Juneteenth, which celebrates the end of slavery in the United States, a state holiday in New York.

The governor said Wednesday he will make this Friday, June 19 a holiday for state employees and will push the legislature to pass a measure recognizing the annual celebration going forward.

“It is a day that we should all reflect upon,” Cuomo said. “It’s a day that’s especially relevant in this moment in history.”

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African-Americans of the end of the Civil War, two months after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at the Battle of Appomattox Court House in Virginia.

While the Emancipation Proclamation was signed two years earlier by President Lincoln, it was not enforced there until after the Civil War had ended.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday a proposal to make Juneteenth, which celebrates the end of slavery in the United States, a paid state holiday in Virginia.

“It finally shut the door on the enslavement of African American people. And while it did not end racism, black oppression or violence, it is an important symbol,” Northam said.

As civil unrest over racism and police brutality engulfed the nation in recent weeks following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, calls for the removal of Confederate monuments and recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday have increased.

A petition calling on Cuomo to follow suit and eventually make the day a federal holiday has gained more than a thousand signatures in recent days.

“Alongside wanting social Injustice to end I would like “Juneteenth” to become a recognized holiday in New York state and eventually have this become a Federal Holiday throughout the 50 states Juneteenth deserves to be celebrated and acknowledged like the Fourth of July,” the petition reads.

Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman (D-Jamaica) has already introduced a bill that would designate Juneteenth as a holiday.

“It is imperative to recognize the integral role Blacks and African Americans play in the development of this state and it is further crucial for us as a state to not only celebrate but to take the time to educate ourselves about the history of the Black and African American community,” a memo on the bill states.


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