Juneteenth – the June 19th date which marks the end of US slavery – will become an official holiday in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced.
The move comes as millions of Americans plan to commemorate, with marches and personal observances, the 1865 date when the last US slaves were freed.
Several states already observe Juneteenth as an official holiday and there is a push to declare it a national holiday.
The date’s significance has grown this year amid Black Lives Matter protests.
Mayor de Blasio said in a press conference on June 19 that the date would be marked as an official city holiday beginning in 2021, and will also be a public school holiday.
He said: “We’ll work with all the unions to work through the plan, give this day the importance and recognition it deserves.
“Every city worker, every student will have the opportunity to reflect the meaning of our history and the truth.”
Earlier this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an order making Juneteenth – also known as Emancipation Day and Freedom Day – a paid holiday for state workers.
Andrew Cuomo said he would introduce legislation to make the day a holiday for all New Yorkers by 2021.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam also promised to make Juneteenth a holiday by 2021 in the former capitol of the Confederacy which rebelled against the US during the Civil War for the legal right to enslave black people.
In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf has also signed an order making Juneteenth a holiday for state workers.
He said in the statement: “In recent weeks, people around the nation have joined together to demand an end to systemic racism and oppression of African Americans.”
“Freedom for all is not fully realized until every person is truly free. This Juneteenth we have an opportunity to unite against injustice and create lasting change,” he continued.
Texas was the first state to declare Juneteenth a holiday in 1980. Now all but four US states observe or recognize the date in some form.
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This year, the date has become particularly prominent in the public consciousness amid a wave of protests over racial inequality following the deaths of several unarmed African Americans. Juneteenth rallies are planned in Washington DC and across the US.
On June 19, 1865 enslaved people in Galveston, Texas received the news that slavery had been abolished by President Abraham Lincoln two years earlier.
According to historians, the news took so long to reach slaves in Texas in part due to fighting that continued even after the surrender of the Confederacy that ended the Civil War.
Corporate America is also treating Juneteenth with more reverence than in previous years, with employees from Nike, Uber, and Twitter being given a paid day off.
Google has asked employees to cancel non-urgent meetings and instead “create space for learning and reflection”.
Amazon told employees to “take some time to reflect, learn and support each other”.
In Washington, the most senior Republican in the Senate said on June 18 that he would introduce a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
Four Democrats have also announced a similar proposal.
In the House of Representatives, the Texas congresswoman who has been pushing for a national holiday for two decades, told CBS that the chances of a holiday becoming a reality are growing.