Nearly Half Of States Now Recognize Juneteenth As Official Holiday
Juneteenth is a combination of the words June and nineteenth. It commemorates the day, more than two months after the end of the Civil War, when enslaved Black Americans in Galveston, Texas, were informed of their freedom. It is now one of 11 official federal holidays – or 12 for federal workers in the District of Columbia and surrounding areas during presidential inauguration years – meaning that federal workers get a paid day off and there’s no mail delivery. Most federal offices are closed on federal holidays, along with most banks and the bond markets that trade in U.S. government debt. The stock markets generally remain open, as do most retailers and other businesses, though these vary by federal holiday.

At the state level, at least 24 states and the District of Columbia will legally recognize Juneteenth as a public holiday this year – meaning state government offices are closed and state workers have a paid day off, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of state human resource websites, state legislation and news articles. That number will increase next year: Connecticut will legally recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday beginning in 2023. A few other states are considering legislation to make the day an official holiday.

Most states where Juneteenth is a legal state holiday have added it to their calendars fairly recently. In fact, all but one of them added it as an official holiday in 2020 or later. The exception is Texas, where the holiday originated and where it is also known as Emancipation Day. Juneteenth has been celebrated locally in Texas since the 1860s and became an official state holiday there in 1980.

Public awareness of Juneteenth grew in 2020 amid nationwide protests after the police killings of several Black Americans, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. President Joe Biden signed the legislation that made Juneteenth a federal holiday in June 2021.

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