Gov. Northam Makes Juneteenth A Holiday, Gets Pass For Racist Yearbook Photo

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) announced Tuesday that he’s designating Juneteentha day that recognizes the end of slavery in the U.S., as an official holiday.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day Union general Gordon Granger read federal orders to the people of Galveston, Texas that all previously enslaved people in Texas were free.

Gov. Northam’s announcement was made in the capital city of Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy. He made the announcement after more than a year of backlash for his controversial 1984 medical school yearbook photo, which featured two men (one of them Northam himself), one wearing Ku Klux Klan robes and the other with blackface.

Juneteenth is celebrated each year on June 19. As an official holiday in Virginia, Juneteenth would be a paid day off for all state employees.

“It’s time we elevate this,” Gov. Northam said of Juneteenth. “Not just a celebration by and for some Virginians but one acknowledged and celebrated by all of us.”

Northam was joined Tuesday at his press conference by musician Pharrell Williams, a Virginia native. Pharrell said he believes that Juneteenth deserves the same level of recognition and celebration as Independence Day.

“Here’s our day, and if you love us, it’ll be your day too,” Pharrell said.

Virginia is the second state to declare Juneteenth as a state holiday. Texas did so in 1980.

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