Illinois names Juneteenth as official state holiday

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Information provided the Governor’s Office

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (June 16, 2021) – Governor JB Pritzker signed legislation on Wednesday declaring June 19, Juneteenth, an official state holiday. To commemorate the abolition of slavery throughout the United States and its territories in 1865, Juneteenth will be recognized as National Freedom Day in Illinois.

“Just as Illinois led the nation as the first state to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, in 2021, we are leading the nation in tackling structural racism head on thanks to the guiding vision of Leader Lightford, Representative Ford, Speaker Welch and the entire Illinois Legislative Black Caucus,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “It brings me exceptional pride to sign into law the declaration of Juneteenth as a formal state holiday in Illinois, making us one of the few states in the nation to give it the full status it deserves.”

Illinois will recognize Juneteenth throughout the state, lowering all flags covered by the Illinois Flag Display Act to half-staff on Saturday, June 19. In addition, this year and henceforth, a Juneteenth flag will fly proudly over the State Capitol in Springfield.

“Today, we can all stand proud that Illinois will officially recognize America’s second independence day,” said House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-Westchester). “As the first African-American Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, this moment will forever be a treasure in my heart, and I hope it will become a treasure for all Illinoisans. It’s a day of remembrance, but also a day of joy and perseverance.”

All Illinoisans are urged to reflect on our collective history and the actions we can take to build a more fair and equitable society. To learn more about the historical impact of Juneteenth, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will display the Emancipation Proclamation through July 6. In addition, the Illinois State Museum will showcase art celebrating Black lives through their Noir Art Exhibition.

The legislation clarifies that Juneteenth will be a paid holiday for state workers and public education professionals when June 19 falls on a weekday. Given that June 19 falls on a Sunday in 2022, the first paid state holiday for Juneteenth will be in 2023.

HB 3922 is effective January 1, 2022.

Lansing response

Lansing Human Relations Commissioner Bobb Wright spoke in support of the decision to formally recognize Juneteenth, saying, “It’s exciting that both Federal and State government are taking a giant step in recognizing an extremely important part of American history by making Juneteenth a recognized holiday! I believe that both recognition and acceptance of past history is dually important to future advancement and progress in so many areas of American society.”

Michelle Ford echoed Wright’s thoughts. Ford is a member of the Lansing Community Coalition and said, “I am heartened, grateful, and thrilled Gov. Pritzker signed into law National Freedom Day as a state holiday. This new law will hopefully bring more awareness of the African-American experience in America. I understand some will think of it as ‘just another day off,’ but I am encouraged they will think about the meaning behind the law, if only for a moment.”