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Gov. JB Pritzker Signs Legislation Making Juneteenth An Official State Holiday

CHICAGO (CBS/AP) -- Gov. JB Pritzker on Wednesday signed legislation making Juneteenth an official state holiday, marking the end of slavery in the United States.

The governor signed the new law Wednesday morning at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, where a rare copy of the Emancipation Proclamation is on display.

"It is our privilege as Illinoisans to house this great document and it is our sacred responsibility to keep its moral compass alive in our own times, especially as we become a leader in the nation in the depth of our recognition of this new Juneteenth state holiday," Pritzker said at the signing.

The law, which takes effect next year, will make June 19 a paid holiday for state workers and public school employees when the date falls on a weekday. Because June 19 is on a Sunday next year, the first paid state holiday for Juneteenth will be in 2023.

In addition, flags across the state will be lowered to half-staff every June 19, and Pritzker said the state will raise the Juneteenth flag over the State Capitol in Springfield.

Juneteenth marks the anniversary of June 19, 1865, the day Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, with the news that the Civil War had ended and slavery had been abolished, freeing the last of the slaves still being held in the Confederacy, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

While many states commemorate the ending of slavery, only some observe Juneteenth as an official holiday. The number has grown following last summer's reckoning over racial injustice, most recently including Maine and Washington.

The U.S. Senate approved a bill Tuesday making Juneteenth a federal holiday, which is expected to pass the House.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday also announced she supports making Juneteenth an official city holiday, after previously arguing it would be too costly to do so. The move would require City Council approval.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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