This year’s recognition of Juneteenth was made particularly celebratory in Pennsylvania Wednesday when Gov. Tom Wolf declared it a holiday in the state.
“Proud to designate June 19 as #Juneteeth National Freedom Day to commemorate the ending of slavery in the United States,” the Democratic governor tweeted that day. “On this day, let us recognize the importance of continuing to build a nation that truly reflects the self-evident truth that all people are created equal.”
Writing about the decision further on Facebook, Wolf said, “While Independence Day marks the conception of a free nation, Juneteenth is a celebration of the fulfillment of this ideal through the Emancipation Proclamation.”
The state House unanimously passed the bill in May, The Philadelphia Tribune reported. Last week, it was passed last week unanimously by the Senate.
The declaration comes on the 154th anniversary of the announcement that enslavement of Africans and African descendants in Texas had been abolished. Juneteenth is also more largely a celebration of the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. The freeing of enslaved people was not instant, however. When the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863, Black people were not freed until two years later.
Remarking on the legislation Wolf signed, Rep. Stephen Kinsey reflected on his own ancestry.
“To those who lived aflame, our past African-American leaders who served right here in these very chambers and from this day forward, the people of Pennsylvania can stand proud and recognize Juneteenth National Freedom Day as a special day of observance every year throughout the Commonwealth of Philadelphia,” said the Philadelphia Legislative Black Caucus chairman.
Kinsey extended a thank you to Rep. Sue Helm who proposed the law, known as House Bill 619, at the end of February. Kinsey also thanked the Mills family as Carolyn Mills, who died of cancer in 2018, inspired Helm to draft the bill, according to PennLive.
Juneteenth becoming a state holiday in Pennsylvania follows the same declaration being made in 45 states across the nation as well as the District of Columbia. According to The Hill, the only states that don’t recognize Juneteenth as such are Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Hawaii.