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WHEREAS, Juneteenth commemorates the events of June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger led Union soldiers into Galveston, Texas, bringing news that the Civil War had ended and that the Emancipation Proclamation had declared all enslaved people free nearly two and a half years earlier; and

WHEREAS, Juneteenth celebrations take place annually throughout the Commonwealth and the nation-- consisting of readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, prayer and worship services, cultural performances, community service events, ceremonial observances, food, and more; and

WHEREAS, in 1997, during the 105th United States Congress, House Joint Resolution 56 and Senate Joint Resolution 11 were passed, officially recognizing Juneteenth Independence Day; and

WHEREAS, on June 16, 2020, Governor Ralph S. Northam issued an executive order establishing Juneteenth as a state holiday for the first time in the Commonwealth’s history and called on the General Assembly to designate Juneteenth as an permanent, paid state holiday—in doing so, Virginia became only the second Southern state following Texas to do this; and

WHEREAS, July 4, 1776, represents the birth of the United States of America and commemorates the United States’ independence from British rule, it did not offer independence and freedom to enslaved people; and

WHEREAS, historically Juneteenth observances have not always received acknowledgement and recognition though Juneteenth is a critical component of American history as it marks a turning point in our nation and a step towards equality; and

WHEREAS, Juneteenth improves upon the nation’s promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and

WHEREAS, Juneteenth commemorates the strength and resolve of Black and African Americans throughout our history and serves as an opportunity to celebrate the rich and numerous contributions of Black and African Americans; and

WHEREAS, Juneteenth is also known as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Cel-Liberation, and Juneteenth Independence Day; and

WHEREAS, June 19, 2021, marks the 156th commemoration Juneteenth; and

WHEREAS, President Joe Biden signed legislation on June 17, 2021 establishing Juneteenth National Independence Day as a legal public holiday, the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983; and

WHEREAS, as we continue to grapple and acknowledge our country’s history and face the everyday reality of racial inequality and injustice in the United States, we recognize that no one is free until we are all free;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Ralph S. Northam, do hereby recognize June 19, 2021, as JUNETEENTH in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.